Tackling ghost gear in Aussie waters

Fisheries in northern Australia are experiencing the negative impact of abandoned, lost, and discarded crab pots. In collaboration with OceanEarth Foundation, through its Ghostnets Australia program, OzFish has launched the Great Aussie Crab Pot Recovery to recover these ghost pots and find a preventative solution.

Ghost Gear

Crab pots used incorrectly or left in the water when not being used are becoming a serious threat to the marine environment. These pots, often referred to as ‘ghost gear’ or ‘ghost traps,’ can keep catching recreationally and commercially valuable fish and crustaceans long after they have been forgotten or lost. This can lead to unnecessary loss of marine life and disrupt the balance of aquatic ecosystems by affecting biodiversity and the health of fish populations.

The Problem

Crab pots are easily lost when set and left, which is becoming an issue that impacts commercial and recreational fishers, who often travel to remote regions for one-of-a-kind fishing experiences. They can also cause frustration for fishers as they are terrible snags and lead to the loss of many lures.

It is important that pots are heavy enough and have plenty of rope attached to the float so they don’t become lost in strong tidal currents. Additionally, they should be marked with the user’s name and fixed to objects above high water, e.g. a jetty or tree. Sunken and unmarked pots are illegal.

The Impact

Lost and abandoned pots pose a risk as they can capture and drown turtles and birds, as well as critical apex species such as crocodiles and sharks. Sadly, animals trapped in these pots can face a long period of suffering before they die. These species play a pivotal role in the resilience of these ecosystems and fish productivity.

Further to this, the pot materials are typically non-biodegradable plastics and metals, contributing to pollution, microplastics and habitat degradation. These ongoing issues highlight why we must fish responsibly and work harder to protect our oceans.

Creating Change

The Great Aussie Crab Pot Recovery looks to understand why this problem grows and investigate solutions to prevent it from recurring. The project seeks to identify sustainable solutions that will control the ongoing accumulation of ghost gear into the future.

Two clean-up events will be delivered in Kurumba QLD and Borroloola NT, utilising OzFish members, local volunteers and Indigenous Rangers. The collected pots will be dismantled, with the netting contributing to OzFish’s Tackle Loop recycling program. Proceeds from selling the recycled products will be channelled into fish habitat restoration efforts.

Finally, to tackle the root causes of this problem, recreational fishers will be invited to contribute to community research and online surveys, which will help understand barriers to managing this ongoing issue and stop it at its source.

We can sculpt a legacy that nurtures the Gulf of Carpentaria for future generations by harnessing the synergy between environmental stewardship and community engagement.

If you go crabbing or travel to remote regions for one-of-a-kind fishing experiences, please fill out this survey which looks to uncover information about the loss of crab pots, helping us tackle the root causes of this problem. Participants will go in the draw to win one of five $100 BCF vouchers.


The Great Aussie Crab Pot Recovery is an initiative by OceanEarth Foundation, in partnership with OzFish Unlimited. This Ghost Nets Innovative Solutions project received grant funding from the Australian Government. It is also supported by BCF – Boating, Camping, Fishing.