Several protected marine turtles have recently been rescued, and released alive, after becoming entangled in abandoned fishing nets. The nets were recovered from Commonwealth waters, including within the new Oceanic Shoals Commonwealth Marine Reserve north-west of Darwin, NT.
The derelict nets, known as ghost nets, are a global problem and national priority under the Threat Abatement Plan for marine debris, not to mention a key emerging priority for the management of marine turtles. Ghost nets present a major risk to marine fauna – entanglement can lead to restricted mobility, starvation, infection, amputation, and drowning. Fish, whales, dolphins, seals, dugong and many other marine species can be impacted.
In the Gulf of Carpenteria research has shown more than 80 per cent of animals entangled in ghost nets are marine turtles.
Over the years the Department of the Environment has worked in partnership with other Australian Government agencies such as the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Department of Defence and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to identify and address the risk of ghost nets sighted within the Commonwealth marine environment.
Border Protection Command aerial surveillance is responsible for reporting the majority of ghost nets sighted in Commonwealth waters and works with agencies with maritime responsibilities, including Parks Australia to task Royal Australian Navy or Australian Customs vessels to recover and dispose of them.