Ghost Fishing UK welcomes new team members

Trainees’ training. Image: Rich Walker

On the 3rd, 4th and 5th December Rich Walker and Ryan Mcshane teamed up to bring four more keen divers into the Ghost Fishing UK team. Pete Ellwood was supposed to join us as well on the instructor team, but he’d eaten something that shouldn’t have been eaten. The less said about that the better.

Anyway, we were hosted by Capernwray Diving, who have always supported the work we do and we were delighted to be back with them.

The Friday was spent going through equipment configurations and tidying up those dangling bits of gear that most divers tend to accumulate over time, but can be real hazard when dealing with fishing nets. We did some refinement of basic skills which allow divers to hover effortlessly near lost fishing gear, again without getting entangled. And finally we worked on some of those emergency procedures like sharing gas. Our trainees Matt, Matt, Frank and Cedric all did well, and got some fine tuning advice along the way.

On Saturday, we began working on the most overlooked aspect of a Ghost Fishing UK divers skill set. Survey helps us to build a map of the dive site, with critical natural features, plus the all important lost fishing gear. This map then helps us build a plan for it’s safe and efficient recovery. Our surveys also gather data on the marine life trapped in the lost fishing gear allowing a picture of the severity of the problem to be communicated. Our teams drew pictures underwater, made measurements and size estimates of a large fishing net, ropes and a lobster pot that Ryan and I had arranged in the water that morning. They made two dives, and in between they drew their first map of the dive site. The first attempt often needs refining, so the second dive was spent filling in the gaps on a few key points of the survey and the map was finally complete. The teams used underwater notepads and video cameras to collect the information and then compiled it all onto a paper version.

Images: Rich Walker

On Sunday was when it all got real. The task was to learn how to use knives, lifting bags and extra cylinders of gas to inflate the bags. The first dive was spent just working on some techniques for lifting heavy objects, cutting thin line, thick line and netting and making sure that the team could operate safely. Ryan and I also made sure that they were paying attention by entangling them in any stray lines! All in a very controlled way of course. After the first dive, the team went back to the survey and devised a cunning plan to remove all of the fishing gear from the water, using the skills and tools they’d been taught in the morning. This was a seamless affair, and all of the gear was back on the surface and tidied up in less than 20 minutes.

These new members of the team will need to put all of these skills into practice on a ‘live project’. Rather than the simulated environment of a quarry, they’ll have to work on real ghost gear, work as a team and above all have a huge amount of fun doing it.

Want to get involved with Ghost Fishing UK? Get in touch – pre-requisites for Ghost Fishing UK training are in our FAQs.