Developing a Floating Net Response Plan
The incident of the 3 tonne net salvaged by fishing crew from the FV Wildcard proved instrumental in drawing together a wide range of stakeholders to begin establishing a proactive and cooperative response for the removal of ghost nets from Northern Territory waters.
The meeting in Darwin in early February 2011 saw representatives from the NT and Federal governments, Indigenous ranger groups, the commercial fishing industry and non-government partners agree that marine debris in northern Australia poses a threat to navigation, wildlife, fish stocks, coastal ecosystems and recreational boat users.
Those present recognized that no single agency has the resources to comprehensively manage large floating ghost nets without assistance from other agencies. As such, they gave commitments to work together to manage this problem.
Everyone recognized that both short term and long term solutions were needed, and the following actions agreed upon:
Short Term Solutions
- Firstly the team agreed that the existing FishWatch hotline - 1800 891 136 would be the appropriate avenue for anyone to report a floating net. This number is managed by NT Fisheries who will pass information on to the relevant parties in order to retrieve and dispose of the reported net.
- AQIS said they would supply an officer to inspect nets and marine debris for pests and invasive species. AFMA volunteered to dispose of all foreign fishing nets once they are brought to shore at Broome, Darwin, Gove, and Skaardon River or Thursday Island in QLD and the Torres Straits.
- The NT Seafood Council is in the process of collating a list of registered vessels willing to be called on to assist in the retrieval of ghost nets
- GhostNets Australia will continue supporting the work of rangers, raising awareness in the national and international arenas, and collaborating with research bodies to better understand the movement and impacts of these floating nets in Australian waters
Long Term Solutions
As these floating nets cross jurisdictions of many agencies and governments a coordinated response managed by a central point of command Is the preferred long term solution.
Until this is negotiated a steering committee representing government, NGOs, indigenous ranger groups and the fishing industry will meet at frequent intervals with the aim of achieving the following goals:
- Create a flow chart that outlines the necessary steps to take and people to notify to achieve the retrieval and disposal of nets from north Australian waters and coastline.
- Identify and engage an appropriate Commonwealth agency to coordinate a response to marine debris management,
- Identify an organization able to coordinate a response to marine debris management. The steering would lobby the Commonwealth Government to provide this organization with resources and logistical support.
This steering committee will be coordinated by NT Fisheries and will include representatives from NT Fisheries, SeaNet NT, Indigenous rangers, NRETAS, AFMA, GNA, and NT Maritime Safety.