Underwater Explorers and Conservationists Team Up for 'Circular Economy' Ghost Gear Removal
Between 27 June and 22 July, a team of volunteer divers from The Society for the Documentation of Submerged Sites (SDSS) conducted surveys of the marine area around Lampedusa, Italy, to identify and document a number of Second World War wrecks sunk during the 1941-1943 Battle of the Convoys.
Leading the team on behalf of the Healthy Seas initiative was explorer and GUE Instructor Evaluator Mario Arena, who has been scouring the seas for archeological artefact since 1994. Also joining the team was Laura Marroni, Vice President of DAN Europe.
Shipwrecks provide excellent habitats for marine life, but are also often snagged by deadly abandoned, lost or discarded 'ghost' fishing gear. It is estimated that around 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear are present in the world's oceans, where they entangle, trap and suffocate millions of marine animals each year.
Upon discovering two huge nets entangled around two of the vessels they were surveying, the team interrupted their exploration to remove the nets with the support of Healthy Seas and Ghost Diving, an international non-profit organisation of volunteer technical divers who specialise in the removal of lost fishing gear and other marine debris.
The first net – a huge trawl net – was spotted at a depth of 76 metres on the wreck of the postal steamer Egadi, sunk by a British Air Force torpedo on 30 August 1941, approximately 20 miles off the shores of Lampedusa. The net was so massive that the divers were only able to retrieve half of it during the dive.
The second net was found on the 40m=deep wreck of the Narval, a French submarine that sank approximately 60 miles from Lampedusa after running a mine near Tunisia's Kerkennah Islands on or around 15 December 1940 with the loss of all 54 souls on board. The team placed a commemorative plaque on the wreck after removing the netting. The team placed a memorial plaque to commemorate the crew.
'Removing nets has been on my agenda for many years, mainly because they cover important characteristics of the shipwrecks,' said Mario Arena. 'Through our collaboration with Healthy Seas, we were able to turn our passion for historical wrecks into a positive environmental solution. We are also thankful to Ghost Diving for sharing their knowledge and procedures on ghost net removals.'
Once removed from the water, Healthy Seas ensures that the nets will be recycled as part of its drive towards a 'circular economy'. The nylon components of the netting are recycled into Econyl yarn, used to create sustainable products such as swimwear, activewear, socks and carpets.
For more about the Healthy Seas Initiative, visit www.healthyseas.org