Ghost Fishing Alert in The Mediterranean – You Can Help?

Turtle being rescued

Marine conservation requires eyes and ears out in the open ocean. In this new section, The Islander magazine will address several simple ways in which navigators can play a crucial role in making sure our oceans stay blue and full of life. In this first article, we request your assistance to fight the risk of ‘ghost fishing’ gear adrift.

Every year, over 8 million tons of marine litter end up in the oceans. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), over 70% in weight of this consists of ropes and abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG).

Ghost fishing artefacts adrift constitute a threat to marine wildlife, sustainable fishing and also safety at sea for navigators. You can help us fight this risk by reporting and retrieving ghost gear and rescuing entangled turtles and other wildlife.

Research Vessel Toftevaag


Since 1990, Alnitak’s historic Norwegian research vessel, Toftevaag, has been sailing the Mediterranean conducting research on whales, dolphins and sea turtles. This is to try and find solutions to the threats posed to biodiversity from noise pollution, vessel strikes, fisheries interactions and marine litter. Since 2015, the Toftevaag expeditions have detected an alarming increase in the number of ghost gear artefacts adrift in the Mediterranean, and in particular south of the Balearic Islands.

Whale caught in driftnet

Ghost fishing is most often the result of illegal, unregulated, or unreported fishing practices. In the Mediterranean, this is mainly illegal pelagic driftnets and surface longlines; both of which are unfortunately still very common along the coast of North Africa. In 2022, Alnitak conducted a survey in the waters of Morocco revealing a staggering fleet of over 940 fishing boats operating over 2,200kms of illegal nets.

Ghost Fishing Nets trapping plastic

‘Ghost’ FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) are rudimentary floats consisting of bottles and wooden structures tied up to bundles of ropes, lines and old netting. Throughout our oceans, hundreds of thousands of these deadly traps are a threat to the oceans and us, as navigators.

The most frequently encountered ALDFG artefacts worldwide and in the Mediterranean are ghost FADs; a rudimentary version made from litter found on the beaches where refugees congregate before making the crossing to Europe. Alnitak, with the assistance of the Integrated Ocean Observation Service of the Balearic Islands – SOCIB (, has used backtrack modelling to find out where these ghost FADs originate.

ODM ghost Fishing APP QR code

How you can help us rescue entangled sea turtles

Alnitak is setting up a basin-wide network in the Central and Western Mediterranean to address this threat. We are engaging with marine wildlife rescue centres, port authorities, patrol boats, fishers and navigators. We estimate that every year, over 10,000 loggerhead turtles die entangled in ghost fishing gear left adrift. One boat such as Toftevaag can only rescue a handful of turtles per year, but if the Mediterranean ghost fishing network can count on the yachting sector, we can have a relevant impact. Between 2019 and 2022, over 1,000 loggerhead turtles were saved by yachts rescuing them and calling 112. They are then taken to veterinarians at rescue centers such as Fundación Palma Aquarium in the Balearic Islands.

Observadores del Mar – Pesca Fantasma allows sailors access to turtle rescue protocols. NEVER CUT THE LINE OFF AN ENTANGLED TURTLE and the same applies if a turtle has a tourniquet around a flipper, DON’T CUT THE LINE! Call 112 and a team of veterinarians will assist you in making sure the turtle is appropriately handled. On their website ( you can access sea turtle rescue protocols and contribute to the reporting and retrieval of ALDFG. The data can then be used by scientists to inform relevant frameworks about the risk of ghost gear adrift to biodiversity and navigation.

If you are anywhere else during your ocean passages, call hotline 0034 619108797 or contact the Sea Turtle Rescue Alliance ( Report with date, position and, if possible, photographs of any ALDFG as this is extremely useful for conservation. Enter your observation at or call/text 0034 619 108797 as this data can be important for Alnitak to inform policy about the hotspots of ALDFG risk. You can also view data from yachts to see how they can make a change!

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