Lost, abandoned or discarded fishing nets, otherwise known as ‘ghost nets’, pose a serious risk to marine life throughout the world, including in the Indian Ocean. Since 1988, a total of 129 Olive Ridley Turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) have been found entangled in ghost nets in Maldivian waters. Given that the main fishing techniques used in the Maldives are pole-and-line and handline, the majority of ghost nets found must have drifted with oceanic currents from neighbouring countries. Our data suggest that these nets may be coming to the Maldivian waters from India, Sri Lanka, and further afield in Southeast Asia during the Northeast Monsoon, and from the Arabian Sea during the Southwest Monsoon. Entangled Olive Ridley Turtles are most often found in the Northeast Monsoon. Individual net samples entangling turtles had stretched mesh sizes ranging from 35 mm to 590 mm. A challenge continues to be identifying from which countries, and which fisheries, specific nets are originating.
It is worth noting that 61 entangled Olive Ridleys were recorded between July 2013 – July 2014 (since the inception of the Olive Ridley Project) and the figure since 1988 only represents a fraction of the true number of entangled Olive Ridleys. It is highly likely many cases remained unnoticed or unrecorded prior to the Olive Ridley Project presence.
We would like to thank our team member Susie Gibson for her talented work to produce this infographic