Labor funds new projects to combat deadly ghost nets

Dept of Climate Change, Energy, Environment & Water

The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water

Senator Nita Green, Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Senator for Queensland

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 Queensland 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.

The five new projects in Queensland, which range in value up to $400,000, include:

  • Establishing a Torres Strait Marine Debris Taskforce, including appointing a Marine Debris Coordinator to work with project partners on technology, such as drones, GPS technology and data collection software to better manage waste.
  • Removing and recycling crab traps and other accumulated fishing debris from key locations in the Gulf of Carpentaria such as Karumba, using MICROfactorie technology.
  • An Indigenous women’s social enterprise and digital marketplace to trade ghost net artworks and raw materials and to raise awareness of ghost nets.
  • Developing an AI model to detect ghost nets and other marine debris from satellite imagery, enhancing the capacity of local teams to track and remove the waste.
  • Enabling Traditional Owners, Indigenous artists and rangers to share their cultural and environmental knowledge of the ghost nets problem at Melbourne Design Week.

More successful recipients will be announced soon.

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 Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef Senator Nita Green:

“The coastline of northern Australia has one of the highest global densities of ghost net pollution, driven by prevailing currents and conditions in the Arafura and Timor Seas.

“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.

“This is a big issue in the Cape, Torres Strait and Gulf waters so I’m really pleased to see the Albanese Government get behind these projects.”

/Public Release. View in full here.