Ghost nets, or fishing nets abandoned or lost at sea, pose a massive threat to marine life and birds.
Fish and turtles, as well as larger animals such as dolphins and sharks, are often discovered entangled in the net, many of which have been killed. Net can travel over extremely long distances with the currents and tides, and lengths of net more that 6km in size have been found off northern Australia.
Net is collected from the beaches by rangers, and recorded and identified (if possible) before being passed on to various communities. While some nets originate from Australian fishing boats, much of the ghost net that is discovered in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Torres Strait originates from south-east Asia, including the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia. The thickness, colour and size of the net can often identify where the net originated.
Several Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are now turning these destructive materials into works of art, which are raising awareness for this terrible issue, and reflect the struggle that communities face in protecting the marine environment. While nets were once either simply dumped or burned after being retrieved, the varying kinds of net are now viewed in a different light. Some kinds of net are particularly desired by artists for their colour and physical qualities, and are turned into stunning sculptural works of art, as well as smaller items.