Ghost Fishing UK clear up deadly ghost nets from Plymouth

After months of being landlocked by Covid-19, the volunteer scuba divers from charity Ghost Fishing have removed 126kg of lost fishing gear.

Six divers set off from the Mountbatten Centre in Plymouth aboard Seeker from In Deep Dive Centre to undertake a survey of some lost nets reported on the wreck of the James Eagan Layne. The divers have already removed hundreds of kilos of net from this wreck but still, it keeps on coming.

The team responded to reports from scuba divers of yet more lost nets on the bow of the wreck, methodically searching the port and starboard sides. They found a mixture of fishing detritus such as monofilament, nylon net, old shot ropes and broken up lobster pots.

They returned the following day equipped with knives and lifting bags to remove the lost fishing gear from the wreck.

Six divers spent 100 minutes in the water each to recover over 100kg of net from the wreck. The net will be stored at a designated site until sufficient quantities accumulate to transport for recycling.

Lost and abandoned fishing gear makes up almost 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and continues to catch fish and marine life long after it has been lost. It is known as ‘Ghost Fishing’.

Last year the charity removed over a tonne of lost fishing gear from the sea around the UK from Scotland to Cornwall. The recovered fishing net was sent to Europe for recycling, keeping it out of landfill.

“It’s been very stressful organising the first project since lockdown started,” says operations manager, Fred Nunn. “There are so many more restrictions and considerations to plan for on top of all the usual ones for a Ghost Fishing UK project. But the sheer enthusiasm that is radiating from our volunteers is infectious. I can’t wait to get back to what we do best.”

Ghost Fishing UK is keen to work with the local fishing community to locate and recover lost fishing gear before it does any prolonged and significant harm to the local wildlife.

“Ghost gear doesn’t know it is lost so it continues fishing around the clock indefinitely,” says trustee and secretary, Christine Grosart. “It can take hundreds of years to degrade and even then, it causes a secondary issue which is micro-plastics. We want to work with the fishing community, not to point the finger of blame as we know that fishing gear is expensive and rarely deliberately lost, but to gain information about where it has been lost so we can go and retrieve it.

“If we can locate a fisherman who loses crab pots, for example, we will often try to return them for re-use. This keeps them out of landfill and stops the pots from ghost fishing any longer.”

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