Sea turtles released from foreign fishing net north of Darwin

Two green sea turtles have been released after a successful Maritime Border Command (MBC) operation located and retrieved an abandoned 1.5 tonne fishing net.

MBC is a multi-agency taskforce within the Australian Border Force (ABF) and the operation was conducted in partnership with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).

The fishing net was located 170 nautical miles north of Darwin and was retrieved by Australian Border Force Cutter Cape St George on Friday 22 January 2021.

Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear, also known as ghost gear, can wreak havoc on marine life. Over the last five and a half years 28 abandoned and lost fishing nets, weighing an estimated 59.6 tonnes combined, have been located and retrieved from northern Australian waters.

AFMA’s General Manager Operations Peter Venslovas highlighted the net had drifted in from foreign waters and the importance of removing abandoned gear from Australian waters.

“The release of two turtles was a great result, foreign fishing nets can drift into Australian waters and continue to indiscriminately fish, trapping and killing marine life.”

“That is why AFMA remains committed to working with other Australian Government agencies to locate, remove and dispose of these threats,” Mr Venslovas said.

Deputy Commander MBC, Claire Rees said that this operation highlights ABF’s broad range of responsibilities.

“Since March last year, MBC has retrieved 5 ghost nets from Australian waters.”

“These nets have the ability to entangle a large variety of marine creatures and birdlife, often hundreds of creatures can be caught in a single net.”

“The success of this mission was made possible with the assistance of AFMA officers and we thank them for their ongoing support.” Commander Rees said.

ABFC Cape St George transported the net to Darwin for disposal by AFMA.

Industry-led practices adopted by Australian commercial fishing operators mean that there is minimal loss of fishing gear during fishing operations. Gear loss, in addition to harming the marine environment, is expensive to replace and can impact fishing operations. If any gear is lost operators are required to report this to relevant authorities.

Media contact: Australian Border Force (02) 6264 2211 or Australian Fisheries Management Authority: 0437 869 860

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