On Saturday afternoon I went to the British Museum to have a general peruse and also to see the ‘Baskets and Belongings’ exhibition, part of the Australian season, which was great.

This exhibition features a selection of around 60 Indigenous Australian containers from the British Museum’s unparalleled collection, including unique objects, not replicated anywhere else in the world.

I came across a ghost net basket and thought would be great to share on here:

Ghost nets are fishing nets which are accidentally lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea and cause marine life serious damage. It is a devastating problem  for the otherwise pristine coastline mainly owned and occupied by Indigenous communities.

Ghost net baskets are made from weaving reclaimed ghost nets into baskets. The reason why this is so important is that it highlights the damage that these discarded nets do and produces something extremely useful for indigenous peoples.


The ghost nets travel the oceans carried by currents and tides, fishing continuously as they go. They’re called ghost nets because it is as if they fish from unseen hands. They entangle many types of marine life and fish until eventually they are washed up. They can lodge on the reef which kills the coral and other lifeforms. Sometimes when they wash up, a big tide picks them up and carries them back out to sea, and off they go again. Ghost nets are a huge problem across the top end of Australia. Not only do they have a devastating affect on marine life but they also affect Indigenous communities. The ocean is intrinsically and directly linked to the lives and culture of these communities; the saltwater people.

GhostNets Australia is an alliance of 22 indigenous communities from coastal northern Australia across the three states of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.  The programme was established in 2004 with funding from the Australian Government. Since its inception the programme has supported Indigenous Rangers to remove over 7,500 ghost nets of varying sizes.  This has resulted in recovery of a proportion of the trapped wildlife, particularly marine turtles (52%), and the prevention of the ghost nets from returning to the sea, continuing their destructing life-cycle. Less than 10% of these nets have been attributed to Australian fisheries.

The exhibition is free and is running until 11 September 2011.

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