This new art piece created by the Okinawa-based artist Hazel Cruzado depicts a sea turtle entangled in a ghost net.
Ghost nets are abandoned or discarded fishing nets, they can float in ocean currents for years or decades, traveling huge distances. Every year millions of marine animals including turtles, birds, sharks, rays, dugongs, dolphins, and whales are mutilated or killed by these nets, a process called “ghost fishing”. Entanglement can lead to exhaustion, suffocation, starvation, amputations of limbs, and, eventually, death of a marine animal (Olive Ridley Project).
In fact, most sea turtle deaths in Okinawa are due to suffocation by being entangled in fishing nets. Japan is one of the world’s largest consumers of marine products and it is the largest fish-eating nation in the world, consuming 7.5 billion tons of fish a year, equivalent to approximately 10 percent of the world’s catch. In general, the main fishing techniques that are problematic and produces ghost nets include drifting gill net, purse-seine and trawling.
To illustrate how detrimental the effects of ghost nets can have on sea turtles, recently an Olive Ridley turtle in India had both of its forelimbs severed by being caught in a net. Luckily, a veterinarian was able to successfully make a prosthetic flipper for the turtle, which allowed it to swim again (link to story).
The Olive Ridley Project is a charity dedicated to sea turtle conservation. A major part of what they do involves rescuing sea turtles trapped in ghost nets as well as conducting research to better understand the source and distribution of ghost nets. Please visit their website to learn more about ghost nets. If you encounter a ghost net, please submit the information to their database here.