|The coastline of Northern Australia is mostly owned and occupied by Indigenous peoples of Australia, and supports an array of marine and coastal species, including six of the world’s seven marine turtle species and four sawfish species. Many populations of these species have declined elsewhere in the world. Ghost nets are part of vast rafts of marine debris arriving from international waters to the north of Australia that are fouling this remote coastline.
Formerly known as the Carpentaria Ghost Nets Programme, GhostNets Australia(GNA) is an alliance of over 36 indigenous communities from coastal northern Australia across the three states of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. The program was established in 2004 with funding from the Australian Government. Since its inception, GNA has supported Indigenous Rangers to remove over 12,000 ghost nets of varying sizes, from 2500km of remote coastline. This has resulted in the recovery of a proportion of the trapped wildlife, particularly marine turtles (52%), and the prevention of the ghost nets from returning to the sea to continue their destructive life-cycle. Less than 10% of these nets have been attributed to Australian fisheries, with the other 90% brought in by the currents and winds from the Timor and Arafura seas.
The program has many goals which go beyond simply removing the nets from the beaches. GNA is training this extensive network of indigenous rangers in data collection, assisting in the establishment of institutional frameworks, and opening channels of communication between communities on a scale that has never before been experienced in Australia with a single project. GNA collects vital information to determine the source of the net, works with our neighboring countries to find solutions to net loss, engenders positivity around the issue through art workshops, and raises awareness through conferences, media and internationally-touring pieces of ghost net art..
In this way, GNA helps enable indigenous communities to fulfil their aspirations of having stewardship of their customary lands and adjacent marine environment, known as “caring for country.”