17 April 2012

Profile: GhostNets Australia

When a commercial fishing net is lost or abandoned in the ocean, it doesn’t stop fishing. Instead, it travels through the water as a ‘ghost net’, snagging anything in its path. Kilometres long, tangled, and drifting unmanned on the ocean tides, ghost nets are one of the ocean’s silent killers. The majority of ghost nets originating from South East Asia end up along the pristine Northern Australian coastline and threaten many species, including marine turtles and sawfish.  

GhostNets Australia, an alliance of over 22 Indigenous Australian communities, is working to protect the Northern Australian coast from the devastating effects of ghost nets. Since GhostNets Australia was founded in 2004, Indigenous rangers working with the project have removed over 8,000 nets from the coastline. Much of the recovered debris has been redirected into artistic projects. 

Using both traditional and contemporary weaving techniques, GhostNets artists create baskets and sculptures from ghost nets that would otherwise end up as landfill. The artists bring a wide range of skills and visions to the project, and the collaborative nature of the weavings constantly sparks innovation. 

The transformation of the ghost nets from a dangerous and uncontrolled ocean threat into beautiful and functional artworks allows the Indigenous owners of the Northern Australian coasts to protect their shores and reclaim stewardship of the land. GhostNets Australia strives to empower the Indigenous coastal inhabitants to play a large role in the management of resources and preservation of the natural environment.  

Above: ghost nets can weigh several tonnes and be kilometres long. Photo courtesy Pormpuraaw Rangers.
Above and below: many marine species are under threat from the unmanned ghost nets. Photo by Jane Dermer, Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation.
Photo courtesy of Mapoon Rangers.

The Long Tide: Contemporary Ghost Net Art will be on exhibition at Gallery artisan until 9 June, 2012.

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