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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

30 November 2004

$2 million to clear further killer nets


The remote waters and beaches of the Gulf of Carpentaria will be cleared of derelict fishing nets and other debris under a $2 million in Australian Government program to save threatened marine and coastal animals from entanglement.

The investment, from the $3 billion Natural Heritage Trust, was announced today by Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell.

Senator Campbell said the funding would help to rid the Gulf of ghost nets develop a monitoring system, help indigenous communities along the coastline to remove and document ghost nets and marine debris and has leveraged almost $2 million in in-kind contributions .

"M arine debris and, in particular, derelict fishing nets are significant threats to marine wildlife such as turtles, dugongs, dolphins and sea snakes, and an unwanted burden to industry," he said.

"Records of entanglements in north east Arnhem Land show a high number of threatened and endangered marine turtle species are killed and injured each year.

"Derelict fishing nets are of greatest concern, entangling about 90 per cent of 200-odd marine turtles stranded at Cape Arnhem between 1996 and 2003.

"In surveys conducted between 2000 and 2003, more than 90 per cent of derelict nets came from international fleets fishing Indonesian waters, while less than 10 per cent originated from Australian commercial fisheries."

Senator Campbell said Northern Australia was especially vulnerable to marine debris because of its remoteness, proximity to intensive fishing operations in neighbouring regions and the difficulties in surveillance and enforcement of management arrangements. Ocean circulation patterns that concentrate floating debris before dumping it on Gulf coastlines also added to the problems.

"This investment will help develop a mechanism and a cooperative community effort to deal with the threat," he said. "This includes awareness program for schools, a Gulf Ghost Nets Website, lobbying opportunities and community awareness raising through posters, radio, newsletters.

"Existing monitoring activities in the region will be improved to determine the source, quantity and potential impact of derelict nets and marine debris. Indigenous communities will be supported in monitoring and clean-up activities, and best fishing practices will be promoted to the fishing industry.

"Planning activities will also work closely with the Dugong and Turtle Project being undertaken by the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance and involving Gulf indigenous communities."

The project, managed by the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group Inc, will involve Aboriginal Communities around the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Australian Fishing Industry, State and Australian Government Departments and Environmental Groups such as WWF-Australia, Clean Up Australia and Natural Resource Management groups from Cape York, Northern Gulf, Southern Gulf, and the Northern Territory.

For further information on the Gulf Ghost Nets Project, contact project coordinator Riki Gunn on 0427 476 500

For images of marine turtles entangled in fishing nets visit: http://www.deh.gov.au/minister/env/2004/ghostnets-nt.html

For further information on the Natural Heritage Trust visit: www.nht.gov.au

Commonwealth of Australia