Ghost Net Retrieval

TREE Foundation understands the importance of involving local communities, fishers and all relevant state departments in effecting positive change at local, national and international levels.

Inspired by Dr. Jane Goodall, her belief that “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make”, is something that is at the very core of TREE Foundation programs. Experience has shown us that illiteracy and poverty are the two largest challenges facing the protection of the natural /world resources in the context of our conservation work. Local coastal communities and fishers alike are always fascinated to learn about the interconnectedness of nature and the land-ocean connection that sea turtles illustrate to us so clearly. Providing employment to individuals within their respective communities offers a financial light for the future and a certainty of income they would otherwise not have.

The sea along the east coast of India is troubled by discarded, unusable, fishing nets and gear commonly referred to as ‘Ghost nets’. Ghost nets are a direct result of fisheries activities, caused largely by ignorance and at times simple laziness on the part of the fishers. There is a huge and ongoing negative impact of casually discarded ghost nets and fishing gear on endangered sea turtles, whale sharks, dolphins and all other marine life. They are singularly responsible for increased mortality rates across the ocean ecosystems involving all species of marine life.  It is an unfortunate reality that ghost nets have become a significant obstacle in the conservation of endangered species on a similar level to that of oceanic plastic pollution.

In our community based conservation work, primarily with sea turtles, we have noticed many avoidable injuries caused by these discarded or ‘ghost’ nets. Frequently sea turtles wash ashore with abrasive injuries and damaged flippers caused by the entanglement as the net cuts through their flesh. While our rehabilitation team along the east coast relentlessly works to rescue, rehabilitate and release these turtles to the ocean, sadly oftentimes the turtles are badly injured and weakened beyond recovery

Though sea turtle populations along with various other endangered species fall victim to ghost nets and continue to struggle against the ghost nets menace there has been no research or detailed mapping of these ghost nets. The policies, procedures, equipment and means for the safe disposal/ recycling of the used fishing gears / recovered ghost nets has also not been laid down as yet. Generally an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude currently prevails among fishers. This attitude urgently needs to change and a culture of

safe disposal of used fishing gears needs to be developed interwoven with a goal of ‘clean oceans make safe oceans’ needs to be inculcated among the fishers. In light of the threat posed by ghost nets, we have  initiated a community based marine conservation initiative to study and retrieve ghost nets along Chennai-Kancheepuram coastal and off-shore regions, Tamil Nadu, India under the Hunting the Ghosts that Haunt Our Oceans’ program.

Involving Community in Ghost Net Retrieval

Under this program we intend to conduct detailed surveys and mapping of the areas by a team of professional sailors and experienced fishers, TREE Foundations Sea Turtle Protection Force members and a cameramen to record events witnessed first hand. Recovery of ghost nets will be undertaken during the survey and entangled marine life will be rescued and released after photography and documentation. The experience gained by the Sea Turtle Protection Force (STPF) over the years in similar activities will also be exploited for the duration of the program. At a local grass root level the program will include awareness on the impact of ghost nets, their recovery and correct disposal of all end-of-life nets or damaged fishing gear. The survey teams and the TREE Foundation volunteers will recover the ghost nets to the best extent of their ability as possible. Very large nets may prove to be unrecoverable by smaller artisanal fishers.

The mapping and other data collected during the program will be collated, analysed and used to estimate and bring out the extent of the problem, recommend ways and means to mitigate it and provide an insight for future policy initiatives on these issues in general and marine resource conservation in particular. The results of the research may also affect the future fisheries gear design, development of disposal and recycling equipment and establishment of these facilities at local level.


Support for this program will ensure that TREE Foundation will be able to meet its ghost net removal and research objectives. It will promote active and measurable conservation activities among those people who depend on the ocean and most importantly create a cleaner, safer and more inhabitable environment for humans and marine life alike. Together we leave a better, brighter, safer and healthy environment friendly knowledge, attitude and skills for generations to come. Donate for retrieval of 100 Kg of Ghost net


Ghost Net Retreival Workshop 2021