Tackling ghostnetsEthical News News & Features
Sea Shepherd UK (SSUK) has announced its first campaign to remove hazardous ghostnets and other lost fishing gear from coastal areas around England, Scotland and Wales.
Once lost or discarded, sections of fishing net and other fishing equipment can drift through the ocean or be left snagged on wrecks, rocks and reefs, indiscriminately killing marine wildlife for decades.
The problem with ghostnets
The number of discarded or lost nets around the UK is currently unknown, but it’s believed that tens of thousands of sections of fishing nets pose a hazard to wildlife around the UK coastline.
The ghostnet campaign will use Sea Shepherd UK’s own highly experienced volunteer divers and its UK fleet of four rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) to survey sections of the UK’s coastline and recover as many nets and other lost gear as possible.
Surveys have already been conducted around North Wales and the campaign will be rolled out into other areas as the appropriate permits for ghost gear retrieval are granted to Sea Shepherd UK.
SSUK’s ghostnet campaign has been launched as a long-term operation, which will work closely with the Marine Management Organisations and other relevant authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to ensure that ghost fishing equipment is removed safely, legally and without harm to the environment or wildlife.
Sea Shepherd is also going to be cooperating with established UK ghostgear retrieval charity ‘Fathoms Free’. Rob Thompson, a spokesperson for the charity, said that this new collaboration will help by pooling divers, volunteers, resources and knowledge as well as increasing activities to more of the UK’s coastline.
He added that this will enable the creation of ‘a more strategic and comprehensive program to clean our seas and protect our marine wildlife. Great things for ocean protection are about to happen!’
‘untold amounts of suffering’
Two SSUK divers have already joined Fathoms Free on ghostnet retrievals around the South West of England.
‘In order to help rid our seas of lost fishing gear we have joined with Sea Shepherd UK on our ghost gear campaigns. It is estimated that 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear is lost at sea every year. This ‘ghost gear’ continues to catch fish and other marine life for decades, resulting in untold amounts of suffering and loss of life. Both organisations will be actively working to remove this deadly ghost gear and help find ways to reduce losses.’
In anticipation of the new ghostnet campaign, SSUK has recently added to its RHIB fleet with the acquisition of a high specification (ex-RNLI and ex-Dorset Police) twin engine ‘Atlantic 75’ which has been renamed GHOST in recognition of the boat’s first campaign with Sea Shepherd.