Some of the Ghost Fishing UK team in January 2019. Image: Jamie Hall
Ghost Fishing UK is run by scuba divers. Our core mission is to locate, survey and remove abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) – so-called ghost fishing gear. We are not an anti-fishing organisation though. Divers are at the heart of the charity, but we also need non-divers to help too. We would love you to join our team, so read on to find out more.
Are you a scuba diver?
We have an excellent safety record, but our work is not without its dangers. We should get that out in the open straight away! During recovery dives, when fishing nets are lifted from the seabed, divers are in very close proximity to them. There is a risk of becoming caught and lifted rapidly to the surface, which can cause decompression illness. To keep everyone safe we have selection criteria for courses and joining recovery dives – we need volunteer divers to have some experience under their weight-belts before they start tackling ghost gear.
We don’t expect you to have skills in marine life surveying, understanding the legal and licencing aspects of what we do, or using knives and lifting bags underwater. We will teach you those parts! Our standard operating procedures formed the basis of the UK Marine Management Organisation’s guidelines on the Recovery of abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear, which recognised this experience. In 2018 we were able to announce we’d removed all the actively fishing ghost gear from the seven principal shipwrecks in Scapa Flow in Orkney.
We run our own course for divers who are committed to getting involved. That way we ensure it is fit for purpose, and that all our volunteers will be confident and competent to carry out the job. We are interested in divers who are engaged with us, have a reasonable level of diving experience, a sensible attitude and dedication to conservation.
Rich Walker (top) and Scubadog Mika.
Colin Stratton (top) and Neil Bosher.
Before applying to take a course you must have:
- A scuba diving qualification: minimum Sports Diver/Rescue Diver or equivalent
- Nitrox certification
- Minimum one hundred logged dives
- Training or minimum twenty-five dives in a manifolded twinset
- Minimum twenty-five dives in a dry suit
- At least twenty logged dives in the year preceding the course start date.
In practice this means you are a diver who is comfortable in the water (you have done sufficient dives to be familiar with UK conditions, and are nice and warm in your dry suit!), have been trained in rescue skills, and using nitrox (breathing gases with more than twenty-one percent oxygen) and twin cylinders so you’ll have plenty of time and breathing gas available underwater. Be wary of ghost gear recovery courses that have less stringent diving prerequisites – these really are the absolute minimum!
“What a great learning experience, what a great few days. I can’t wait to get on a project and recover more net.” Jamie Vaughan, Ghost Fishing UK training course, April 2019.
We dive in teams. On recovery dives these are teams of at least three. Not what you are used to? Don’t worry. Each diver has a specific role, be it cutting the fishing net to release it, attaching and filling the lifting bags, photographer, and most importantly the safety diver or overwatch. The job to be done dictates the skills needed in the team. A strong team diving ethos and positive attitude towards safety are what you need to start with.
Only open circuit equipment is permitted on our training courses so if you are already an experienced closed-circuit rebreather diver then you’ll need to leave your unit at home for now.
Ghost Fishing UK is not agency specific and divers from all organisations and training backgrounds are welcome. Training in our standard operating procedures will allow you to dive together safely.
Courses are completely free of charge, although there is a ‘commitment deposit’ of £200, which will be refunded if you attend all the agreed training sessions. Dates will be fixed by the instructors and trainee ghost fishing divers. Our course is delivered by volunteers who give up their time to run them – no one gets paid for it.
Not a diver? Or don’t have the right level of experience just yet?
We will find something for you to do if you’d like to give us a little of your time! We will identify what you are good at and will welcome your assistance whether that be fundraising, media support, helping at shows and events or crewing on boats. Chipping in and getting to know the team will help you along your way to becoming a ghost fishing diver, if that is you goal, until you have enough skill and experience to join the dives.