Project ReCon

Busting Ghost Nets Haunting the Great Barrier Reef

World first program that uses retrieved and repurposed satellite technology to track and remove deadly and destructive ghost nets

With giant ghost nets wreaking havoc on marine life and corals around the Great Barrier Reef, marine debris charity Tangaroa Blue Foundation has taken to the sky by partnering with international technology company Satlink to launch a world first program which uses satellite technology to tag and track ghost nets while retrieval teams are mobilised to remove them.

Satlink’s “Project ReCon” will allow for repurposing recovered echosounder buoys to track ghost nets entering the Great Barrier Reef and will be integrated into Tangaroa Blue Foundation’s ReefClean project that is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust.

“With our teams looking for ways to reuse and recycle international commercial fishing echosounder buoys retrieved from beach clean-ups along the Reef, it was very much a case of who ya gonna call,” says Heidi Tait, CEO of Tangaroa Blue Foundation.

“Turns out, Satlink was the ghost net buster we needed to speak with to be
able to repurpose the buoys and divert them from landfill.”

It was a perfect match, Tangaroa Blue was the perfect partner to get Project ReCon off the ground, starting in Australia along the Great Barrier Reef early next year and then rolled out around Australia through the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) network.

“By working with international commercial fishing fleet partners we can have the buoys recovered by Tangaroa Blue and their AMDI partners tested and reassigned to track ghost nets along the Reef. The technology also allows for virtual fences to be put around reefs providing notifications before nets impact critically sensitive areas,” Kathryn Gavira, Satlink’s Head of Science & Sustainability, says.

The project has been welcomed by the Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef and Labor Senator for Queensland, Senator Green: “This exciting new project by the Tangaroa Blue Foundation is a further step in the right direction to one day ensuring our waters are free from ghost nets. Well done to everyone involved.”

“Ghost nets pose a huge problem in the world’s oceans including Australia’s northern oceans and the Great Barrier Reef, where sadly we see tonnes of fish, dugongs, turtles and other marine species getting tangled up, and coral being put at risk,” says Senator Green.

As part of the program, Tangaroa Blue’s AMDI partners, which include Indigenous Rangers, tourism operators and commercial vessels, will deploy the buoys as part of their monitoring work.

“With lost or discarded ghost nets the size of football fields currently drifting unsupervised across the Great Barrier Reef, they are causing untold damage to marine life and fragile corals as they become entangled on reefs”, Tait says.

“By having the buoys distributed along the Great Barrier Reef with AMDI partners it means that if a ghost net can’t be removed due to its size and capacity of the vessel and crew who find them, a buoy can be immediately attached and the net’s movement tracked in real time by satellite until a retrieval team is mobilised.”

Implementing Project ReCon along the Reef will help reduce technological waste, reduce impacts on coastal environments and benefit the local Australian communities that find the echosounder buoys.

Photo credit: Chris Bolton Fishing

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