Tonnes of deadly marine debris removed from Australia's northern waters

In 2021, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) deployment of chartered vessels supporting targeted operations to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing also resulted in successfully removing 4.5 tonnes of deadly marine debris.

Working closely with Maritime Border Command (MBC), a joint agency taskforce enabled by the Australian Border Force (ABF) and the Australian Defence Force (ADF), AFMA Fisheries Officers embarked on three voyages to assist in the retrieval and disposal of fishing equipment and foreign fishing vessels (FFVs) seized for unlawful fishing in Australia’s northern waters.

While providing logistical assistance to MBC operations targeting illegal foreign fishing vessels in waters around Ashmore Reef, Cartier Island, Mermaid Reef and Rowley Shoals Marine Parks, the AFMA chartered vessels were also able to retrieve marine debris such as ghost nets and fish aggregating devices (FADs) which had drifted into Australian waters from our north.

Australian Marine Parks are iconic places of high conservation significance and importance to the Australian community, protecting these special places is a priority for the Australian Government.

AFMA’s General Manager of Operations, Peter Venslovas said “AFMA Officers retrieved a total of 5 foreign ghost nets weighing 2.2 tonnes and 9 FADs weighing 2.3 tonnes, with more than 4,000 metres of anchor rope, which were in addition to the disposal of 4 illegal FFVs and fishing equipment seized by MBC patrol vessels from foreign fishing vessels caught operating illegally within the Australian Fishing Zone”.

Ghost nets and other discarded fishing gear referred to as Abandoned, Lost and Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG) are an enduring threat to the marine environment. Whilst FADs can present a navigation hazard to vessels, ghost nets can continue to fish indiscriminately and impact wildlife directly through entanglement of marine mammals and turtles.

AFMA works closely with Parks Australia and MBC to collect ALDGF found in northern Australia through the Australian Government’s Ghost Nets Initiative. This includes trialling the use of GPS trackers attached to nets that are unable to be retrieved at the time so they can be re-located and removed.

Mr Venslovas, said Australia continues to respond, safely, quickly and decisively to remove foreign FADs and ghost nets to protect the unique biodiversity of Australia’s northern waters and continues to assist MBC with the interception of illegal foreign fishing vessels.”

“The Australian Government’s targeted compliance operations serves as a reminder to those seeking to exploit Australia’s marine resources that Australian authorities have zero tolerance for such illegal activity,” said Mr Venslovas.

AFMA works closely with Australian Government Agencies and regional neighbours to sustainably manage Commonwealth fish resources and deter IUU fishing.

Find more about AFMAs international fisheries engagement and compliance activities, including our fight against foreign fishing marine debris at international compliance.

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