16 May 2023
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A NET-FREE REEF?
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is home to an incredible diversity of marine wildlife and a bustling centre for people. Local communities and recreational fishers rely on a thriving Reef, and tourists all over the world flock to this iconic location as an ideal holiday hotspot.
Sadly, climate change, water pollution and commercial gill nets are threatening all that makes our Great Barrier Reef so great. But there’s one thing that we can do right now to eliminate one of these threats - get rid of the nets!
It’s time to protect this precious part of nature. Find out what makes these nets so destructive and how their removal can benefit the animals and communities that depend on a thriving Great Barrier Reef.
WHAT IS A GILL NET?
Gill nets are expansive fishing nets reaching up to 600m long and are primarily used to catch fish. They’re positioned in shallow shelf waters and hang along the ocean floor, trapping passing fish by their gills as they swim through the diamond-shaped netting.
But that’s not all these nets catch.
Other wildlife, including threatened turtles, dugongs and dolphins, can get entangled and drown in these nets.
Gill nets also pose a threat to coastal fishing communities. They decimate the waterways, leaving little fish and robbing recreational fishers of the stock they need to support their livelihoods.
Unfortunately, this unsustainable form of fishing occurs in more than 60% of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, threatening the incredible array of unique marine species that live there.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF NET-FREE ZONES?
Net-free zones bring numerous benefits to both marine life and people.
These designated areas provide a sanctuary for endangered animals, protecting them from the threats of indiscriminate fishing practices. As balance is restored, precious ecosystems have the chance to flourish and thrive once more.
Net-free zones safeguard endangered species and support the sustainable practices of recreational fishers. The positive impact of removing gill nets is evident in Rockhampton’s Fitzroy River, one of Queensland’s three net-free zones. Gill nets were removed from the area in 2015, and incredible results have been observed since. Data from Infofish Australia reveals that following the removal, the average size of king threadfin has increased by 24%, and barramundi by 23%. This growth is important, as when barramundi and threadfin grow to ‘trophy sized’, they change from male to female. More large fish means more breeding females boosting the overall population.
HOW CAN YOU HELP CREATE A NET-FREE REEF?
In 2021, UNESCO made a crucial recommendation to declare the Reef “in danger”, emphasising the urgent need to phase out destructive gill nets in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
WWF-Australia has launched a petition to create a Net-Free Reef. We’re calling on the Queensland Government to phase out gill nets on the Reef, and we need as many signatures as possible to show that Australians are committed to protecting this iconic natural wonder.
You can help protect our precious marine life. Sign the petition now and show your support for a Reef free from commercial gill nets.
Read more about the benefits of a Net-Free Reef in the Net Gains Report.