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Team work makes the dream workA lost fishing net 200 metres long has been removed from the popular diving and fishing reef ‘Hand Deeps’ in Plymouth, by the ocean conservation charity Ghost Fishing UK.
A team of ten volunteer scuba divers belonging to the ocean conservation charity Ghost Fishing UK have been back in action after being kept away for months by the Covid-19 pandemic.
They responded this week to reports from scuba divers belonging to Plymouth Sound Sub Aqua Club among others, to locate and survey the huge net, before making a plan to remove it.
Lost or abandoned fishing gear is problematic in our oceans, with an estimated 640,000 tonnes lost into the sea globally each year.
The lost nets and pots known as ‘Ghost Gear’ continue fishing non-stop. The catch is never landed and the trapped animals act as bait for others, in a non-stop cycle of wasteful deaths known as Ghost Fishing.
The team brought the net back on board the diving vessel Seeker before painstakingly unpicking 115 trapped animals from the net and returning them to the sea.
Most animals were still alive and included spider crabs, lobsters, edible crabs and a large pollack.
Despite the scorching weather and requirement for face coverings and diligent hygiene on board, the team spent two hours following two dives freeing the animals.
“We are so pleased to be able to get back out doing such important work, even in times like these” Christine Grosart told us. She is a trustee of the charity, an instructor for the Ghost Fishing UK course and photographer. “This net is huge but on reefs, it is sometimes very difficult to pinpoint exactly where the ghost gear is. Fortunately, we had excellent information from several reports and with good coordinates we were able to find it within 8 minutes.
It is extremely rewarding not just to recover such a huge net, but to release 115 animals back into the sea, the majority of which were still alive and kicking. Covid-19 set us back with our new recruits but over the last 5 days we have been able to bring several of our newly trained divers out on their qualifying ‘live’ dives and continue building our amazing team.”
The volunteers began their mission last weekend in Portland, Dorset and over two days recovered a dozen lost pots as well as other detritus. They then moved on to Lyme Regis and were able to recover large pots and return them to their owners, still in good condition.
One of the pots contained a live conger eel that was trapped in the netting within the cage.
James Balouza from In Deep Dive Centre, Plymouth, skippered the boat over 2 days and is a big supporter of the charity which is made up entirely of volunteers.
“Being able to support Ghost Fishing UK with logistics for their diving operation as well as to assist with the removal of the net from Hand Deeps was incredibly rewarding and also of prior importance to maintain the health of the reef. Hand Deeps is one of the most biodiverse reefs that we regularly dive and as such is a very popular spot for our customers. Ghost nets, such as the one recovered this week pose a threat to a vast array of marine life. Their swift and effective removal significantly decreases the impact to the marine environment and industries that depend on the health of our coast.”
Ghost fishing UK encourages divers and fisheries alike to tell them when and where nets and pots have been lost. ‘Live’ and active fishing gear is never touched and the charity is fully licensed for their unpaid work.
Local scuba diver Christine Ingram, from Plymouth Sound SAC Dive Club, among several others, reported the large fishing net to Ghost Fishing UK after coming across it during a club dive on the reef Hand Deeps. The net was strewn across two pinnacles at approximately 20-30m deep trapping all sorts of marine animals. Christine said “It was quite shocking to see how much damage these nets cause and I felt I had to report it straight away. “
Ghost Fishing UK is dependent on volunteers to give up their time for the charity to continue this important work and aims to work closely with the fishing industry. If fisheries are able to inform the volunteers when nets and pots are lost, they are able to respond much quicker. In some cases, they can return the gear to its owners.
To help support this unique and specialist charity, please consider making a small monthly donation at www.ghostfishing.co.uk/donate
Ghost Fishing UK webinar 27th April 2020A recorded video of the Ghost Fishing UK webinar. The one where we reveal the new logo.
Fishing For Plastic - CornwallSophie Devereau creates and narrates in this documentary following the Ghost Fishing UK volunteer team as they head to Cornwall to remove harmful "Ghost Gear" from the wrecks off the Cornish Coast.
Warning: Contains images of injured animals which may cause distress.
Madame Alice from Oban July 19 (High Definition)
BBC Spotlight Plymouth - Pier CellarsThe BBC joined Ghost Fishing Uk as they went in search of a reported ghost net in Plymouth.
Portland Harbour - BBC Spotlight 2019Ghost Fishing UK divers recover a large lost gill net from Portland Harbour, UK.
The net will be upcycled with the help of conservation initiative, Healthy Seas.
Filming with the BBCFrom our trip to the Epsilon where the BBC joined us to film for the One Show
Madam Alice from Oban July 19https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_jSiDXGY6E ---- click here for the higher quality version of this video
Plymouth Course Easter Weekend 2019Put together by one of the students from the course
Ghost Fishing UK Eyemouth 2019GFUK kicked off the season in Eyemouth for an underwater Ghost Gear clean up.
Video: Owen Flowers
Divers: Pete Elwood, Sergej Maciuk, Stephen Elves, Owen Flowers, Scott Pendry, Martin Maple, Garry Hems, Duncan Ward, Dimitris Papakonstantis, Graham Atkinson, Ryan Mcshane.
Once on shore the material was surveyed and a fish and 2-3 inch long crabs were released. (Likely the stuff had been accumulated by the tide and had not been in the sea longer than 6 months.) The material was 90% rope and metal but the small amount of net was separated for recycling via healthy seas. The material was was added to the pile amassed by Sea the Change (https://www.seathechange.org.uk/) and Divestay (http://www.divestay.co.uk/) who were carrying out beach cleans and an underwater litter pick on the same day.
Divers split into 3 teams and proceeded to begin a systematic search of the bay in appalling 1m visibility but within 20mins located a massive tangle of rope, net and metal in 12m of water.
Team 1 and 2 located the net and attached a DSMB to mark the location and began their survey. The survey completed they began their ascent. After a surface interval the plan was for one team to attach lift bags and a second team to inflate them and complete the recovery in one lift.
This would be one of the largest single lifts of rope/net GFUK had ever attempted. The remaining divers were split between surface support and filming. The plan was executed to perfection with everyone looked awesome.A rope was attached to the recovered rope/net and it was towed a short distance away from the shore and then recovered on to the dive lift.
Returning to the harbour some local divers with a rib assisted in towing the net to shallow water at the slip. We used a car with tow hitch to drag the stuff onto shore.
Ghost Fishing UK - Eyemouth March 2019Ghost Fishing UK Dive in Eyemouth
The dive team:
Pete Elwood; Sergej maciuk ; Stephen Elves; Owen Flowers; Scotty Pendry; Martin Maple; Garry Hems; Duncan Ward; Dimitris Papakonstantis; Graham Atkinson; Ryan McShane
Skipper: Jim Easingwood; Boat: Silver Sky.
The Ghost Fishing UK team left Eyemouth Harbour at 0830, on a Healthy Seas sponsored trip abroad the Marine Quest dive boat Silver Sky.
Following a report from a diver logged via the GFUK reporting system, the team reached Weasel Loch, and short distance from Eyemouth. The eleven divers split into three teams, and proceeded to conduct a thorough survey of the area, looking for the large net close to shore, as stated in the report.
Conditions were extremely poor, and offered only 1 metre visibility to the divers. However, within twenty minutes, the teams located an enormous tangle of rope, net, and metal within 12 metres of water.
Teams 1 and 2, who had located the mass, attached a DSMB in order to mark the location, and began their survey. After completing the survey, the teams began their ascent, and proceeded to plan their next course of action. Tasks were delegated out, with one team tasked with attaching lift bags, and a second team with inflating these. This would allow the entire recovery to be completed in a single lift, making it one of the largest single lifts that GFUK has ever attempted.
The remaining dive team were split between surface support and filming. Owing to a comprehensive survey, and an astutely orchestrated plan, the entire mass was lifted in one effort, as hoped.
A rope was attached to the recovered ghost gear, where upon it was towed a short distance away from the shore, and then recovered on to the boat’s lift.
On returning to the harbour, a group of local divers with a rib offered assistance in towing the net to shallower waters at the slip. Once in the harbour, a car equipped with tow hitch was used to drag the enormous mass onto shore.
Once on shore, the tangle of rope and net material was surveyed. One small brown fish, and two juvenile spider crabs were freed and returned to the water. As judged by the small amount of by catch and marine flora and fauna upon the ghost gear, it would appear that the mass had been accumulated by the tide, and had been in the sea no longer than 6 months. The mass consisted of 90% rope and metal, and the remaining small amount of net was separated for recycling via Healthy Seas. The other material was added to a pile amassed by Sea the Change (https://www.seathechange.org.uk/) and Divestay (http://www.divestay.co.uk/) who had been carrying out beach cleans, and an underwater litter pick on the same day.
The same team of 11 divers returned to Weasel Loch aboard the Silver Sky. The objective for Sunday was to carry out a further search of the bay to ensure that the mass of rope and net recovered the previous day was the entirety of the ghost gear that had initially been reported.
With force 5, gusting force 8, winds and unsuitable spring tides, other sights were blown out for the day. Nevertheless the teams descended, upon which they found even worse conditions than the previous day, at only 0.5m visibility and a 0.75+ knot current.
The three teams spent up to 22 minutes below water searching, before abandoning the dive and returning to the surface. No further ghost gear was found.
Unsuitable conditions meant that diving operations had to stop after the one dive, and the Silver Sky returned to Eyemouth Harbour by around 2pm. No other sights were accessible.
Acknowledgements: Marine Quest (boat), Eyemouth Harbour Trust (logistics), and Healthy Seas.
Video: Owen Flowers
Editing: Owen Flowers