Ghost (net) Busters

The Problem:

Derelict fishing gear is haunting our oceans, but there is nothing supernatural about the impact of ghost nets. They are very real to the millions of marine organisms that are injured or killed by them yearly in our oceans. When fishing nets are lost, they continue to fish as ghost nets and impact all kinds of marine organisms, capturing and killing crustaceans, fish, turtles, birds, sharks, and marine mammals - even whales. Ghost nets also damage underwater habitats, contribute to marine pollution, and cause economic loss for fishermen. These nets can drift for decades before washing ashore, breaking down into smaller pieces, or being pulled out of the ocean by humans.

What we are doing about it:

Watson the Whale

We have developed a creative and engaging curriculum for 5th though 9th grade. Each Ghost (net) Busters program includes a discussion of the problems associated with ghost nets, followed by a hands-on, inquiry-based STEAM learning activity. 

During the 2017-2018 school year,  we traveled around North Carolina with our life-size inflatable whale classroom to educate youth on environmental impacts of ghost nets. We visited 75 schools and spoke with 12,506 students about the issue and the solutions! We also visited summer camps and attending public events, reaching an additional 3,743 people! We are still programming through November.

Be a part of the solution:

  • Help with a beach clean-up and remove trash (including fishing nets) from beaches
  • Eat fish that have been harvested sustainably and with safer fishing methods (use Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch as a guide to help you choose!)
  • Spread the word! Teach others about the impacts of ghost fishing gear

Are you interested in scheduling Ghost (net) Busters at your school? Request a program today!

For sections of our video, check out our playlist!

Engineering Competition:

Join us for our second Ghost (net) Busters Engineering Competition on November 3rd! Click here to learn more.

Read about our first Engineering Competition below:

After our visit to schools, students were invited to participate in an engineering competition that challenged them to come up with creative solutions to the ghost net problem through technological innovation. Our competition was held on April 28, 2018, at UNCW’s Center for Marine Science. We had local experts there to judge our teams designs and determine the winners of the competition! 

Congratulations to our first place winner, Carolina J., and our runner up team, Amelia L., Alexandra V., and Francis B. from Morehead City Elementary School! Thank you to our judges, Ann Pabst, Bonnie Monteleone, Shawna Rowe, and Jon Vanderfleet. 

LauraLaura Sirak-Schaeffer, Ghost (net) Busters Program Coordinator

Laura comes to us from the Museum of Science, Boston where she was an informal STEM educator facilitating school field trips and public programs. She earned her BS from Stockton University and her MS in Marine Science from the University of New England where she researched seal-fishery interactions. Laura will be the lead educator traveling around the state to implement Ghost (net) Busters.