Ghost Nets: A Threat to Marine Life in the Maldives

Ghost Nets: A Threat to Marine Life in the Maldives

Across the world’s oceans, ghost nets are known to be wreaking havoc on marine life. Regretfully, the thriving waters of the Maldives are no exception.

Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been discarded, abandoned or lost in the ocean. As these nets drift with the ocean currents, their destructive effects can be felt far from their point of origin. If not removed, ghost nets can float in the ocean for years or decades, ‘ghost fishing’ everything that comes their way.

The main threat that ghost nets pose is the entanglement of marine animals. Turtles, sharks, rays, dolphins and several other species can get trapped, leading to exhaustion, suffocation, starvation, amputations of limbs, and, eventually, death. Not only can the entanglement have deadly consequences, but it can also disrupt the complex social structures that some animals live in (such as dolphins). It can also cause further entanglement of predators that inquisitively swim into the net.

In response to an alarming number of marine organisms, especially turtles, becoming entangled in lost, abandoned or otherwise discarded fishing nets, the Olive Ridley Project was initiated in the Maldives in 2013. Already in their first year of operation, they reported that 77 per cent of turtles recorded in ghost nets were juveniles. It is mostly the Olive Ridley Turtles that get entangled as tens of thousands of these animals head to or from the mass nesting on the east coast of India and almost inevitably stumble upon large numbers of nets that the ocean currents push across the ocean.

To help the turtles make it to their nesting place and to help ensure that other animals don’t end up in one of the floating ghost nets, keep your eyes open when in the Maldives or elsewhere. Let your instructor know if you notice a fishing net on your dive or on the water surface during your boat trip. We will remove it so that it doesn’t pose a threat to the stunning marine life anymore and try to save those creatures that may have already been enmashed.

Image credit: Olive Ridley Project