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November 11, 2010
Shepparton nets ghosts
By MIDN Scott Barnes
THE ship's company of HMAS
Shepparton (LCDR Adam Muckalt)
have become environmental warriors
after recovering two drifting 'ghost nets'
in as many days around Croker Island,
The Survey Motor Launch spotted the
nets on October 13 and 14 approximate-
ly 10 nautical miles north-east of Port
Shepparton's CO, LCDR Adam
Muckalt, said ghost nets wreak havoc on
the marine environment, indiscriminately
destroying everything in their path.
"Navy is a custodian of the oceans for
future generations, so we have a respon-
sibility to protect the marine environment
from pollution like these nets," LCDR
"Nets like these could also easily
become entangled in a ship's underwater
fittings and have a serious impact on its
The ship's company struggled for up
to four hours per net in 34-degree heat
recovering the nets through a combination
of the ship's machinery and pure strength.
"The nets were similar to icebergs
-- most of each net was submerged, so
we thought it was going to be a rela-
tively simple recovery evolution," LCDR
"And the smell on board was phenom-
enal. I have been a boarding officer on
patrol boats before, but this was worse
than anything I have previously encoun-
An immeasurable amount of sea life
was saved by Shepparton's recovery of the
nets, with a turtle, a small shark, several
crabs, as well as many fish and shellfish
being saved and released back into the
Unfortunately, the devastation the nets
had already caused was apparent with
a large amount of sea life, including a
marine mammal, sharks, fish and some
rare black coral caught up in the net.
The nets, estimated at up to 1000
metres in length and weighing many
tonnes, were found during the ship's rou-
tine hydrographic surveys.
Shepparton later returned to
Darwin where the Australian Fisheries
Management Authority took the nets for
Shepparton retrieves a
ghost net found adrift in
Photo: MIDN Matthew Payner
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