A successful trial of a new GPS tracking system has recovered two more deadly “ghost” nets from Torres Strait as part of the Australian government’s $ 14.8 million Ghost Nets initiative.
It comes as new research from CSIRO uncovers more about how lost and discarded fishing gear moves through northern Australian waters.
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said today (September 14) that testing a tracking device safely retrieved the two foreign fishing nets so they could not continue to harm marine species. Fish, turtles, dolphins and seabirds often die from entanglement in nets that become floating death traps.
“We are delighted with the success of this first GPS tracking test and look forward to continuing to tackle ghost nets head-on,” said the Minister.
Recovered near two islands in the Torres Strait
“The two alien ghost nets were recovered near Badu Island and Possession Island in the Torres Strait, and have now been unloaded and safely disposed of in Cairns.
“The trip also recovered parts of a fish aggregating device in the ocean east of Cape York – including buoys, nets and bamboo.”
According to a statement released by Ley, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, the Australian Border Force through its Maritime Border Command and Parks Australia recently joined forces for a trial to improve the way ghost nets are tracked. and recovered from the Australian oceans.
A border force surveillance plane located the larger of the two ghost nets 10 nautical miles northwest of Badu Island in the Torres Strait. Officers aboard a patrol vessel then attached a tracking device to the net.
Fishing nets are massive and difficult to remove
“When the nets are first spotted, it is not always possible to retrieve them immediately, as they can sometimes weigh up to 4 tonnes and extend for almost a kilometer,” Ley explained.
“Improving our ability to detect and retrieve ghost nets through targeted tracking technology is key to the government’s approach to protecting our ocean and the species that live in it.
The follow-up trial comes as CSIRO’s marine debris research team completes the most comprehensive analysis of aerial ghostnet survey data in the Gulf of Carpentaria to date, with the study also being funded in as part of the government’s ghost net initiative.
This study highlights that the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland and the southern Gove Peninsula in the Northern Territory are key hotspots for ghost nets and that the number of nets has increased over time, building on about the important work that many groups do to collect data on the ground.