On 24th April 2007. The Prodivers Maldives team found a large ghost net nearby Kuredhu resort with many animals dead and entangled inside. The net had killed one adult male Grey Reef Shark (a Near Threatened and protected species), one juvenile Green Turtle (an Endangered and protected species), and one juvenile Olive Ridley Turtle (a Vulnerable and protected species). Thankfully, one adult female Olive Ridley turtle was still alive and was cut free and released successfully by the Prodivers team! This encounter shows that ghost nets are not just deadly to turtles but are a risk to many different valuable and protected marine species here in the Maldives!
A Grey Reef Shark was one victim of this ghost net. The net had wrapped around the shark’s head, preventing it from eating and swimming.
A juvenile Green Turtle also perished in the net. All sea turtles breath the same air that humans breath, they need to regularly come to the surface to take a breath. If they cannot reach the surface all oxygen will disappear and the turtle will be forced to breath in water. This entanglement prevented the green turtle from taking a breath on the surface and it eventually drowned.
Ghost Nets do not select which species to entangle and kill, all those unfortunate enough to interact with the net may pay the ultimate price, this process is known as ‘Ghost fishing’, when unused fishing gear continues to catch marine species and birds even when not actively used by the fishermen. Several large predatory fish were tangled in the net as well.
A juvenile Olive Ridley Turtle was removed from the net, unfortunately it was found too late by the Prodivers team and became the final victim of the Ghost Net.
The story does end with a small victory, upon removal of the net they came across a adult female Olive Ridley that was still moving and alive, luckily this individual was entangled near the surface and was still able to reach the surface in order to breath. Prodivers team quickly got to work and cut the final turtle free. It was a great feeling to save a life and be able to free this turtle back into the wild. Great work team:)
We would like to thank the Prodivers Maldives team for their efforts in saving these animals and we thank them for sharing their story with us.
If you would like to learn more about the effects of ghost nets please watch this documentary produced by the Olive Ridley Project
Written by: Dr. Jillian Hudgins and Martin Stelfox