World Animal Protection team members on Gulf of Carpentaria with long fishing net.

Ghost fishing nets entangling the Gulf of Carpentaria


We’ve joined forces with James Cook University and CSIRO to document the catastrophic amount of plastic lost, abandoned and discarded fishing gear – known as ghost gear – is in the Gulf region.

An aerial and shoreline survey began today to assess the impact of plastic ghost fishing nets on marine animals.

The data collected will subsequently be analysed to produce a report that provides a up to date picture of the volume of ghost nets in the Gulf and the threat to Australian sea animals.

Ben Pearson, Head of Campaigns for World Animal Protection Australia said:

“Fishing gear is designed to catch and kill, and when it is lost or abandoned in the ocean it continues to do this, becoming the most harmful form of marine debris for sea animals."

“It’s heart-breaking to know that animals caught in this incredibly durable gear can suffer from debilitating wounds, suffocate or starve to death over a number of months.”

Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria is a hot spot for both ghost fishing nets and marine turtles including Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, Green and Flatback turtles.

If left to drift these plastic nets become trapped in the Gulf and continue to fish, injuring, entangling and killing hundreds to thousands of turtles and other marine animals.

CSIRO estimated that between 5,000 and 15,000 turtles have been killed in the Gulf of Carpentaria after becoming ensnared by ghost fishing nets.



Where is the ghost gear in the Gulf coming from?

While half the nets can’t be identified by their source country, research shows only four per cent are from Australian sources. Most of the nets found are likely to have travelled on currents from countries to the north such as Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan and Korea.

The federal Threat Abatement Plan contains a number of actions to address ghost gear in Australian waters, but it is not clear when the Australian Government will fund and actions the initiatives.

“It seems the government’s plans to protect Australian sea animals from ghost gear and other marine debris is a victim of entanglement in bureaucratic processes.” – Ben Pearson, Head of Campaigns, World Animal Protection Australia

To combat the global problem of ghost fishing gear, World Animal Protection founded the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) in 2015, dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost fishing gear at a global scale with practical solutions.

With our supporters’ help, we’ll continue the fight against ghost gear to keep sea animals safe in our oceans. 

World Animal Protection acknowledge the Traditional Custodians and of the Country throughout the Gulf and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.


Image Credit: World Animal Protection / Dean Sewell

Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria is a hotspot for both ghost fishing nets and marine turtles including Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, Green and Flatback turtles.

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