3 May 2016

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), working in partnership with Maritime Border Command in the Australian Border Force (ABF), Parks Australia and the Torres Strait Regional Authority’s Malu K’iai Rangers from Boigu Island, recently recovered and disposed of almost 10 tonnes of abandoned foreign gillnets sighted inside the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone and Torres Strait Protected Zone.

A photo of a ghost net floating in the water off Boigu Island in the Torres Strait

Ghost net floating off Boigu Island, Torres Strait

The gillnets were initially sighted by ABF aircraft near Deliverance Island in the Torres Strait. Two days later, two additional foreign gillnets were sighted in prime dugong habitat on Red Sand Bank, west of Boigu Island.

Malu K’iai Rangers and ABF officers monitored the location and condition of the nets while AFMA arranged for their recovery and disposal.

All three gillnets were inspected for marine fauna and one protected turtle was rescued, and released alive, after becoming entangled. The nets weighed 9.6 tonnes and were approximately 1.3 kilometres long.

AFMA General Manager of Operations, Peter Venslovas, said that this recovery operation is an excellent example of AFMA working in partnership with other Australian Government agencies and Torres Strait Indigenous Rangers to identify and address the risk of abandoned foreign nets that continue to fish indiscriminately in the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone and Torres Strait Protected Zone.

“Abandoned fishing nets are a global problem and present a major risk to the marine environment and safe navigation,” Mr Venslovas said.

“AFMA will continue to work closely with other agencies to address the operational challenges of locating, recovering and disposing of these nets.”

Parks Australia spokesperson Bianca Priest said retrieving these nets before they drifted into Commonwealth Marine Reserves was crucial.

“Significant collaborative effort is provided from multiple government agencies to ensure marine debris is removed from our oceans,” Ms Priest said. “Large drifts of abandoned fishing nets are a threat to marine life and can damage sensitive marine habitats.

Photo of a ghost net retrieved from the water by a crane

Ghost net retrieved from the water

“This coordinated retrieval operation demonstrates the government is serious about protecting marine life in Australian waters by reducing the threat of marine debris.”

Commander Maritime Border Command, Rear Admiral Peter Laver, said this operation illustrated the Australian Government’s commitment to responding to the range of threats in Australia’s maritime zones.

“Maritime Border Command and our partner agencies do an exceptional job protecting the Australian maritime border. As part of this we have an important role to play in safeguarding our natural resources and unique biodiversity,” Rear Admiral Laver said.

More information on AFMA’s sustainable fisheries management can be found at afma.gov.au