Joint media release: Labor funds new projects to combat deadly ghost nets

The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water
Marion Scrymgour, Member for Lingiari

The Albanese Labor Government is tackling deadly ghost nets by funding new projects which will help detect them, remove them or dispose of them in northern Australian waters.

Every year, lost or abandoned fishing gear drifts into the Gulf of Carpentaria. These nets can be more than six kilometres long, weigh over ten tonnes, and travel great distances with the tides and ocean currents.

Ghost nets are a dangerous menace for turtles, dolphins, sharks, seals, and other fish. Endangered animals swim into the nets and then become entangled, lacerated, or strangled by them.

Nylon ghost nets are also a major contributor to the global crisis of ocean plastics, taking hundreds of years to break down.

This grant program is part of a broader $14.8 million package to help protect our unique marine habitats and wildlife. So far under the program, 195 ghost nets have been removed from the Gulf of Carpentaria, along with over 50,000 kg of marine debris.

These projects in the NT, which range in value up to $400,000 include:

  • Trialling new beach clean-up equipment to facilitate the removal of large amounts of waste from beaches in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
  • Establishing technology to granulate marine debris to make it easier to transport and recycle
  • Ghost net detection using satellite imagery together with artificial intelligence to enhance predictive capabilities
  • Arial surveys using drone technology to monitor ghost net locations
  • Reducing marine debris through education and outreach
  • Using a custom designed vessel for the removal of ghost nets within the Groote Archipelago.

Quotes attributable to Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek:

“Abandoned fishing gear has been killing marine animals on an industrial scale.

“Sea creatures swim into these discarded nets and then find it impossible to escape. Turtles, dolphins, seals and sharks are all dying in these cruel underwater traps.

“Unfortunately, the removal of ghost nets and marine debris can be challenging, due to their size, remote location and strong tides.

“And the plastics found in ghost nets continue to degrade. These plastics can remain in the marine environment for hundreds of years.

“I want to see a plastic free Pacific in our lifetimes. This program will help rid our oceans of ghost nets so that we can protect our magnificent marine life for generations to come.”

Quotes attributable to Member for Lingiari Marion Scrymgour:

“The coastline of northern Australia has one of the highest global densities of ghost net pollution. Up to 15,000 ghost nets have been reported in the Gulf of Carpentaria in the last 10 years.

“This is why our investment is so important – we want to get these nets out of our waters to prevent damage to our reefs and marine life.

“Our Sea Country is so important for our communities along the Northern Coast – and I am very excited to see the work that will come from these grants.”