Meet The Olive Ridley Project

Our Resident Marine Biologist Chiara Fumagalli would like to share her interview with the founder & director of our partner Olive Ridley Project, Martin Stelfox on the ghost nets issue, actions taken & future plans of ORP.

Here it goes.

Let’s start from the beginning: where do ghost nets come from?

Ghost gear is able to travel great distances from their place of origin by hitchhiking on ocean currents! This makes it very difficult to understand problematic areas and therefore trying to find solutions to reduce the amount of nets in our ocean.Our first step at ORP was to start recording all nets found in the Maldives.Once our database started to grow a common trend was forming: most ghost gear found consists of many different nets coming from various locations around the Indian Ocean.

Ghost gear collected by Coco Bodu Hithi Associates during a snorkelling trip in North Malè Atoll

Ghost gear collected by Coco Bodu Hithi Associates during a snorkelling trip in North Malè Atoll

Are the nets coming from the Maldives?

Whilst it is certainly possible for some of the ghost gear found to have a Maldivian origin, for the most part it is likely that it is coming from overseas.

The Maldives practices very sustainable and traditional fishing techniques and catch mainly Skipjack tuna using the pole and line fishing method hence ghost gear production is very low.

Martin removing a ghost net from the reef during a snorkelling trip at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu

Martin removing a ghost net from the reef during a snorkelling trip at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu

Why do we find so much ghost gear in the Maldives?

The Maldives has a very special geographical location. Consisting of around 1190 Islands and lying north-south across the east-west currents (Monsoons) it acts as a trap for any drifting objects floating with these currents.

A massive ghost gear conglomerate found by Dive Ocean Dhuni Kolhu team on the way back from a scuba diving trip in Baa Atoll

A massive ghost gear conglomerate found by Dive Ocean Dhuni Kolhu team on the way back from a scuba diving trip in Baa Atoll

What is ORP doing to reduce this problem in the Maldives and the Indian Ocean area?

Currently ghost gear is responsible for trapping and killing millions of animals each year.

It is becoming clear to us that if we would like to dramatically reduce this problem, we need to look beyond the Maldives and operate in different areas and this is exactly what we are doing:

Maldives   

We have already trained over 100 volunteers through seminars and lectures within resorts and local communities on how to approach entangled marine life and what information to record whilst performing rescues or net removal.

At the same time ORP has worked closely with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to develop a standardised protocol that explains all the data that needs to be recorded. The aim is to identify where different nets come from and what they were used for.

We can use this information to investigate the problem further and aim to reduce the problem in various hotspots.

Currently one of our main projects in the country is to build the first veterinarian run rescue centre in the Maldives at our partner Resort of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu.

India

We have teamed up with the Terra Marine Research Institute (TeMI),a local NGO advocating and using sound scientific and socio-economic tools to study and conserve India’s terrestrial and marine biodiversity.

We are working on a number of projects including a recycling project for end of life fishing nets within fishing communities of Karnataka Coast.

More recently students from St. Joseph’s College are embarking on a 1-month expedition along the Kundapur Coast to understand ghost gear in the region. The study will include fishermen surveys that highlight their opinion on ghost gear and why nets are lost.

We will also be recording all ghost nets found along the survey area and record active fishing gear used by the communities to create a database of active nets.

All this information can be extremely useful to track lost gear in the future!

ORP’s Project Scientists Dr Annie Kurian visits Mumbai, Mandvi village to discover lots of old nets no longer used ready to be recycled. We are trying to secure funds to make this happen.

ORP’s Project Scientists Dr Annie Kurian visits Mumbai, Mandvi village to discover lots of old nets no longer used ready to be recycled. We are trying to secure funds to make this happen.

Recently a 2015 Turtle Conservation Workshop for India’s East Coast States was conducted by the Forest Department of Andhra Pradesh in collaboration with Terra Marine Research Institute, Olive Ridley Project, WWF, Turtle Action Group and Blue Cross.

The aim was to address the increased mortalities of endangered sea turtles along the east coast of India and ORP’s Project scientist Dr Annie Kurian (TeMI co-founder) was on hand to discuss the problem of ghost gear in our oceans.

Pakistan

ORP recently secured funding through the Rufford Small grant fund and will be working alongside WWF-Pakistan along Karachi Coast.

Very little information is available on the types of fishing nets being used in Pakistan and the rate of lost gear. It is known that the predominant fishing technique used is gill nets and that by-catch (indivertibly caught species such as sharks, turtles and dolphins) is very high.

We plan to work with the local fishing communities along the entire coast to understand the problems fishers face, the reasons behind lost gear and to record all types of fishing gear used in the area.

The first step will be to train a group of 5 local divers on data collection methods so that they will work closely with their local fishing community and together help retrieve lost gear.

Thailand

Recently ORP teamed up with Blue View Divers (BVD) based on Koh Phi Phi in Thailand.

The idea behind this partnership is to educate the local diving community on the effects of ghost gear in the marine environment but also to explain how to record data on all nets found.

BVD’s extensive knowledge of the area gives us a great opportunity to work with the fishing villages in the surroundings.

Through education we aim to show the effects of ghost gear on turtles and other marine life and to inspire the need for a change in fishing practices.

It didn’t take me long to find the first ghost nets while diving there and after recording the information were even matched to some nets already found in the Maldives!

We are very excited about this new partnership and hope to retrieve very important information from this region also.

Ghost net collected during a diving trip with Blue View Divers in Thailand

Ghost net collected during a diving trip with Blue View Divers in Thailand

Fishermen surveys in Iran, India and the Maldives

ORP has distributed surveys to fishing communities in key locations within Iran, India and the Maldives. The surveys plan to highlight the reason why fishing gear becomes lost, abandoned or discarded and what local opinion is on the ghost nets.

When we’ll understand the problems fishermen face and the general opinion on ghost gear within the fishing community we will be able work with the communities towards reducing the problem.

Tell us something about the Global Ghost Gear Initiative – (GGGI)

The GGGI, founded by the World Animal Protection, is a cross-sectorial alliance committed to driving solutions to the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear worldwide.ORP teamed up with leading experts on ghost gear and currently is the only organisation working in the Indian Ocean region.The specific aims of the project are to improve the health of marine ecosystems, to protect marine animals from harm and to safeguard human health and livelihoods.

This will be achieved by three strategic approaches:

  1. Build evidence
  2. Define best practices
  3. Catalyse and replicate solutions

In 2014 ORP’s senior project scientist Dr Jillian Hudgins attended GGGI’s first round table held in Slovenia.

Thank you Martin! Give also CocoCares’ followers a look into the future of ORP.

We have lots of plans for the future and we would like to reach out to more Indian Ocean countries!

We are working towards expanding our fishermen surveys into Oman and Pakistan and hope to further understand the problem of ghost gear in these regions.

Moreover our partnership with Coco Collection Resorts should see the building of the first turtle rescue centre at Coco Palm Dhuni Kholu Resort, the first of its kind run by a professional veterinarian in the Maldives.

We will also continue to explore the possibilities to convert old fishing nets into items to be sold for the local community or, why not, into pieces of art.

 

 

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