Targeting ghostnet hotspots to save turtles

Tonnes of fishing nets lost at sea are a threat to marine life, including turtles, as they continue to catch sea life.

These nets are a particular problem in the Gulf of Carpentaria where there can be as many as three tonnes of net per kilometre washed up on beaches.

During a recent cleanup of ghostnets on beaches in the gulf, 80% of animals recorded in nets were marine turtles, including olive ridley, hawksbill, green and flatback turtles.

Working with Ghostnets Australia, CSIRO researchers are combining knowledge of where turtles are found, ocean currents and where the nets wash up onshore to find the best places to direct clean-up operations. Ghostnets Australia is an alliance of over 22 Indigenous communities from coastal northern Australia.

Most of the fishing debris to enter the Gulf of Carpentaria comes from South-East Asia and arrives in the monsoonal season from November to March. These nets then get swept to the western side of the gulf during the southeast trade winds in May to September.

Ghostnets Australia forms clean-up plans where volunteers manually collect discarded nets from beaches and the ocean. These nets are then placed in landfill, made into sculptures or used in other reuse projects.

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