What is a ghost net?
In the past month we have pulled three ghost nets out of the waters surrounding Kihaa. We feel it’s a win-lose situation: it’s good that they were pulled out, but bad that they were there in the first place. One of the nets we spotted was floating on the surface and had an Olive Ridley turtle caught in it. We untangled its right flippers, assessed its wounds and were able to set it free, you can watch our rescue video here.
What is a ghost net?
A ghost net is any net/rope that is left in the ocean, either on purpose or by accident by fishermen. These debris then get swept around in the currents, sometimes coming together to form massive knotted messes.
Why are they bad?
Ghost nets are extremely harmful to large ocean animals like sharks, rays, dolphins, whales, and turtles. Here in the Maldives unfortunately turtles are a common victim to ghost nets; if not rescued their fate is most likely death. Often their flippers get entangled, and over time can cause deep cuts, if rescued these limbs may have to be amputated.
Ghost nets can also become home to many smaller animals, often crabs and small fish take shelter inside the tangles of net. This isn’t always beneficial, these animals will flow and move with the ghost net, which could end up in an area that these animals may struggle to survive. These ghost nets may also transport parasites or spread other harmful organisms around.
They can also harm coral reefs. If the nets become too heavy it will sink or maybe it will get swept by the waves and land on the reefs. They can then get tangled up on the corals, either breaking or smothering them.
What happens when we find one
When we encounter a ghost net we inspect it for sea creatures and remove it from the ocean. Then measurements are taken of each net (often there are many different nets all knotted together). This includes: the webbing length, the thickness of the rope, whether it is synthetic or natural fibers, and the color. Of course if there are large sea creatures caught this is also recorded. This information, along with photos are sent to the Olive Ridley project, who not only care for turtles, but also keep a data base on ghost nets and try to track where they originate from.
What can we do
The best thing we can do is inquire where we get out seafood from and how it is caught. We would encourage you to only eat seafood you know that it has been sustainably caught!