Ghost Nets



Ghost Nets

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"We are Saltwater People, and GhostNets Australia allows our communities to work together to get rid of marine debris in our sea country." Djawa Yunupingu, Dhimurru."GhostNets Australia operates under a simple philosophy: “saltwater people working together”. Everyone, from ranger to researcher, who cares for the marine environment is a saltwater person and only by working together can we achieve change.

Since 2004 we have:

prevented over 14,000 abandoned, discarded or lost fishing nets from continuing their deadly journey around the ocean, where they trap and further threaten our endangered marine life by removing them from this system.
rescued more than 400 marine turtles from a slow and painful death.
discovered where the nets are coming from and the reasons why this sudden increase is occurring in our region.
supported Indigenous rangers from 40 different clan groups to continue their stewardship of their customary lands and adjacent marine environments by providing local indigneous rangers with the much needed resources, training in data collection and building their skills in effective decision-making and communication.
found a creative re-use for the piles of rubbish that has genereated into a new genre of art that has resulted in purchases by prestigious art collectors, museums and galleries around the world, and
begun to work on effective solutions to this complex issue
GhostNets Australia is powered by communities, and like these communities we are continuously evolving.

With thousands of kilometres of ghost nets still wreaking havoc across the ocean we don’t have a second to lose in freeing our oceans from ghost nets.

Explore the thumbnails below for stories about our past and future direction.

Type of group


Primary environmental focus


Geographic sphere or activity


Primary location


Known address

Cairns, Queensland

Website link/s

Date of known website activity

August 2014

Founding Year


History of group

There is no recording of the first ghost net sighting but, long time ghost net campaigner, Lawry Booth, recalls his first sighting in 1989.

Lawry was walking along the beach near his home at Mapoon community, western Cape York, when he sighted a marine turtle entangled in a ghost net.

Assuming the turtle to be alive, with its bright eyes open and glistening, Lawry rushed to untangle the turtle from the net. As he worked to remove the net a piece of the turtle's flipper broke away. The poor creature had obviously already perished.

As Lawry looked down in sadness at the turtle’s big body to his surprise he saw a tear slowly trickle down the turtle’s face. Emotion welled in Lawry, seeing a dead animal cry brought the brutality of the ghost net issue to light. Lawry had a message to spread…

Three years later action had begun, with several key activities operating independently of each other:

The first cleanups and wildlife strandings were being recorded just south of Mapoon.
The first survey quantifying and identifying the origins of nets was being carried out on Groote Eylandt, NT.
The Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation on the opposite shore of the Gulf of Carpentria, initiated their Turtle Rescue Program.

By 2002 concern and activity had escalated. The magnitude of the issue was laid out in a report from the National Oceans Office entitled Finding Solutions: Derelict Fishing Gear and other Marine Debris in Northern Australia. Simultaneously the WWF Net Kit was released to support costal communities to identify the different nets found on their shores Finding Solutions can be downloaded below.

But most critically for us, GhostNets Australia was formed. Our objective was to provide a systematic approach to addressing the issues of ghost nets across the whole region. We knew that more impact could be made if efforts were coordinated.

From the time of formation our key focus has been on building the capacity of the Indigenous rangers to remove ghost nets from their saltwater country.

From here we’ve built on our successes and concentrated on gathering data to inform decision-making from the ground up. We’ve worked hard to determine the source of the nets, quantify the impact on turtle populations and understand the abundance and distribution of the ghost nets across the whole of northern Australia.

Navigate through our site to find out more about our achievements and our aspirations for the future.

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