Rescuing turtles from ghost net

Thuan San
By Thuan San
March 13, 2017Videos
Rescuing turtles from ghost net

Sea turtles have become entangled in ghost nets floating in the ocean. These creatures are particularly vulnerable to becoming trapped in abandoned fishing nets.

At this time of the year, the Maldives sees an increase in turtles needing rescuing: the North-East Monsoon brings in floating ghost nets from the Bay of Bengal and therewith a potential for turtles becoming entangled.



Ghost Fishing is what fishing gear does when it has been lost, dumped or abandoned. Imagine a fishing net that gets snagged on a reef of a wreck and gets detached from the fishing vessel. Nets, long lines, fish traps or any man made contraptions designed to catch fish or marine organisms are considered capable of ghost fishing when unattended. And without anyone profiting from the catches, affecting already depleted commercial fish stocks. Caught fish die and in turn attract scavengers which will get caught in that same net, thus creating a vicious circle.


Ghost nets are among the greatest killers in our oceans, and not only because of their numbers. Literally hundreds of kilometers of nets get lost every year and due to the nature of the materials used to produce these nets they can and will keep fishing for multiple decades, possibly even for several centuries.

Image: Wikipedia

When caught on a reef, nets do not only catch fish, turtles, crustaceans, birds or marine mammals, they also destroy hard and soft corals, wiping out complete ecosystems while swaying in the current. If caught on wrecks nets can suffocate a wreck and thereby render  hiding places for marine life useless, or even trap them inside.

A seal ensnared in a ghost net | © Ecomare

Divers are all too familiar with this phenomenon, especially in well fished areas. The founders of Ghost Fishing were confronted with ghost nets while diving the many wrecks in the Dutch North Sea. In 2009 they joined a local team of divers who started to clean those wrecks. After some years of local efforts it was time to broaden the horizon and get in touch with like-minded groups all over the world. And so the Ghost Fishing foundation was born.

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