Ghost nets pose a massive impact on the marine environment. This short video, taken around the Maldives and Sri Lanka documents discarded or lost fishing nets at sea and what happens when marine animals encounter them.
The Olive Ridley Project was founded to research the effects of ghost nets after large numbers of olive ridley turtles were found entangled in them in the Maldives.
Olive ridley Turtles are pretty rare nowadays, especially in the Maldive, but from 2011 to 2013, marine biologists, divemasters and boat captains recorded 50 of the turtles entangled in fishing nets in Maldivian waters. Each entanglement discovered entirely by chance, suggesting that these 50 turtles reflect only a small portion of the actual number of ghost-net entrapments of olive ridleys in this region. Sadly, many more will have slipped by unnoticed.
Thanks to the Olive Ridley Project, since July 2013, 53 more olive ridleys have been found. Entangled in these nets for extended periods, once found, the turtles are often in such bad shape that they do not survive the process of being freed. Dedicated teams in the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India are working towards rehabilitating injured turtles. Unfortunately, however, the problem of ghost nets continues.
At present, the Olive Ridley Project has removed 154 nets from the Indian Ocean, collected from India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. They have documented and analyzed these samples as well. The Olive Ridley Project collects net data from across the Indian Ocean and adds it to their database. They hope eventually to identify what types of fisheries in particular contribute to the ghost-net figures. At the same time, trying to identify potential origins and final destinations of ghost nets.
Awareness is key. Sharing what you know on social media is a great way to raise the profile of this problem. The Olive Ridley Project also sponsors symposiums and workshops to spread their message, and welcomes anybody with an interest. Scientific data can also help understand the true threat of ghost nets in the Indian Ocean. With insufficient current data, the project has created a database to collect information on any ghost net found either on a beach or at sea.
The data recorded involves basic parameters such as webbing size, twine dimensions, twist direction, material and knot construction. Their website and Facebook group pages offer a detailed explanation of their data collection methods. They are happy to include information from anyone who spots ghost nets while walking beaches or diving in the Indian Ocean. Email the project at [email protected] if you would like to get involved or have any further questions.