Satellite Tracking

Satellite images of gill net being tracked.

Satellite Technology

Using satellite technology we've been able to track several gill nets to help us understand more about the movements and devastating impacts of ghost nets.

The project was initiated by our Northern Territory Project Officer Scott Morrison, utilising Micro star prototype drift net trackers (developed by U.S. company Pacific Gyre) to track the nets by satellite. We've chosen to work with these trackers as they have a battery life of up to two years, are designed to survive several months at sea and include:

  • drifting buoys, designed to track and follow the currents
  • marker buoys, designed to remain in place to collect remote, environmental data.

To launch the first trackers we called on our partners Bruce and Juanita Davey, from the fishing vessel ‘FV Wildcard’. The Daveys are commercial fishing operators and active anti-ghost net campaigners, and we know they frequently remove nets from north Australian waters.

The Davey's were on the look out for the first opportunity to launch the trackers and in early 2012 they encountered a large gill net on a reef system in the most north-easterly point of the Northern Territory. A closer inspection showed that the net was ideal for tracking. There was no marine growth or evidence of marine life in the net, indicating that the net was relatively net and in very good condition and could not be brought aboard given the net weighed in excess of 120 kg and the Daveys were experiencing extreme weather.

The Davey's followed protocol and sent the details of the net and the precise location to the Northern Territory Marine Safety Branch and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in Darwin and Canberra, so that it could be reported as a hazard to other mariners. The Daveys then marked the net with a drifting buoy, enabling us to track real time locations of the ghost net via the Pacific Gyre website.

Using satellite technology were then able to track the pathway of the net and when it reached Australian mainland our Rangers were able to easily locate it, examine the net for entangled wildlife before removing and permanently disposing of it from our beaches.

With assistance from Northern Territory Fisheries and the Australian Customs and Border Protection, we hope to provide the Davey accurate information about the location of other ghost nets so they can deploy more drift net trackers.

We are also pleased that we can share the information gained with our partners at the CSIRO who are currently modeling of sea current and net movement and we hope to provide regular updated maps of the nets progress and any findings that are made.

Our special thanks goes to Bruce and Juanita Davey for making this exciting project a reality.