GhostNets Australia wins Sustainable Ocean Innovation Award 2012

Tuesday, 08 May, 2012

The 2012 Sustainable Ocean Innovation Award has been awarded to GhostNets Australia for their work in northern Australia tackling the serious problem of lost fishing nets called ‘ghost nets’.

GhostNets Australia has determined that 90% of these nets are drifting south from intense fishing activities in the north of Australia. The group has found ghost nets measuring 10 km long and recorded a myriad of marine species that get entangled as the nets drift along with the currents. The litany of marine casualties include turtles, dolphins, sharks, seabirds, crocodiles, rays and, of course, multitudes of fish. The destruction caused by ghost nets continues as they near shore, often wrapping themselves around delicate coral reefs and coastal mangrove systems.

Established in 2004, GhostNets Australia has set up an effective cooperative alliance of Indigenous communities along the north Australian coastline from Cairns to Broome. Over 150 rangers from these communities regularly patrol their coastlines to locate, remove and record ghost nets, as well as rescue entangled wildlife where possible. Since 2004 the rangers have removed approximately 10,000 nets of all sizes ranging from small fragments to huge, multi-tonne monsters.


Before and after: the rangers resue entangled creatures, and tranform the nets into collectable art.

Sustainable Oceans International, an international consultancy specialising in marine impact mitigation and reef restoration, offers the annual Award for Sustainable Ocean Innovation to recognise and promote innovative practices that help mitigate marine impacts or restore degraded marine ecosystems.

“The GhostNets Australia program is a fantastic example of innovation in action. Solving our environmental problems needs a healthy dose of lateral thinking in order to first see a solution and then brainstorm a way to make it happen,” said David Lennon, director of Sustainable Oceans International.

“What particularly impressed us was how they have initiated a program that turns ugly ghost nets into beautiful artwork that is sought after by esteemed collectors of Indigenous art around the world. Not only this, GhostNets Australia is working to determine the source of the nets and resolve a complex social issue by building the capacity of Indigenous people to care for their country.”

“We are very honoured to have received this award,” said Riki Gunn, Director of GhostNets Australia. “This recognition of all our efforts will be a huge boost to our team’s morale as we launch into the next phase of the program - tackling the source of the issue and working directly with fishermen in Southeast Asia. Thank you.”

SOI received applications from the US, Canada, the Philippines, Fiji, Australia, Indonesia and the UK. The award is offered each year in April, with nominations opening in November the year before.

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