How ghost nets haunt marine life

1 February 2023
Hidayah Halid

Coral reefs are now becoming increasingly  vulnerable as the impacts of human activities and the climate crisis worsen. It is important for us to maintain our coral reefs in healthy condition as it provides so much to us and to the marine environment.

Ghost nets are an example of anthropogenic activities that cause harm to coral reefs and other marine organisms. A ghost net is a fishing net used by vessels that has been discarded or lost to the ocean. Once a fishing net has been separated from the vessel, it continues to drift with the ocean currents. This can cause animals such as fish, turtles and seals to become entangled. In shallower areas near the shore, ghost nets can be caught on reefs. They may either continue to float, dragging and destroying the corals, or completely cover the corals, inhibiting their growth by blocking the sunlight from reaching them.

Ghostnet removal day

Along with the Perhentian Marine Research Station (PMRS) crew and members of Anak Pulau, we have been removing these ghost nets from the waters of the Perhentian archipelago, which are rich in marine life. Once a week, we send divers out to search for ghost nets. 

As soon as we receive a report about the location and general size of the nets, we dispatch our team to remove them. Once we have arrived at the reported location, we put on our scuba diving gears and get into the water. Depending on the type of net, we use equipment to untangle it from the corals. We hope to minimize the impacts of our removal activities on the corals and marine animals.

Once the nets have been cut and detached from the corals, they are tied to lift bags to allow them to float and no longer drag on the corals. The nets are then lifted to the surface of the waters towards the boat or shore. Once the nets have been placed on the boat, they are then relocated to be either repurposed or discarded appropriately.

These photos were taken during one of our successful ghost net removal activities back in August 2022. Four different nets were spotted clumping on a reef on one of the Perhentian Islands. A total of nine ghost net dives were carried out between August and October, including responding to reports from our stakeholders.

Hidayah Halid

More by

See all stories by  

We want you to share this article, which is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). This means you are free to redistribute our material for non-commercial purposes. All we ask is that you give appropriate credit and link to this content, indicate if changes were made, and distribute your contributions under the same Creative Commons license. You must notify us if you repost, reprint or reuse our materials by contacting info[at]

Leave a Reply

Supporting partners 2023

Supporting partners

The Restoration Stewards program provides funding, mentorship and training to deepen the impact of youth-led restoration projects. The year-long program is run by the Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL) and the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) under the banner of Generation Restoration to support and highlight the work of eight young restoration practitioners and their teams in 2023.

During the program, the Restoration Stewards and their teams are  supported to further develop their project and serve as ambassadors at both global and local levels. Globally, the Restoration Stewards share their journeys in a series of vlogs and blogs documenting their stories of inspiration and challenges and participate in different international events to showcase their work. Locally, they are sparking a restoration movement, mobilizing local communities and creating pathways to connect, share, learn, and act for livelihoods and landscapes.