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 Divers retrieve haul of ghost fishing gear from Scapa's famous wrecks

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Divers have recovered 48 lobster pots and more than 200kg of fishing nets plus several hundred metres of rope from Scapa Flow in a week-long clear up that involved 150 hour-long dives.

The team from Ghost Fishing UK,  was funded by World Animal Protection, mostly worked on the world-famous fleet of German ships shuttled at the end of the First World War.

Rich Walker, a senior instructor with Global Underwater Explorers, who led the project,  said:  'The wrecks will also be safer not only for the animal population of Scapa Flow, but also for the divers visiting the wrecks. Fewer stray ropes mean that the risk of getting tangled up is much lower now thanks to our efforts.'

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Christina Dixon, UK Campaigns Manager from World Animal Protection, the animal welfare organisation that funded the project, said: This is the second year we have been involved and we are very pleased with the result. The ghost gear recovery makes the waters of Scapa Flow a safer place for marine life and the fresh research means that we are one step closer to eradicating this problem in the future.'

Dr Joanne Porter, a marine researcher from Heriot Watt University, was also part of the project to study the effects of this waste and work to reduce it. She trained the divers to conduct simple marine life surveys on the debris prior to it being lifted to the surface. This allowed a comparison between the ghost gear content on the sea bed, and that which was recovered.

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Dr Porter said 'It was a great week where we could all share our skills and learn something from each other. The team spirit was strong and the amount of gear lifted by Ghost Fishing UK and the data generated as a result of that was a fantastic outcome.'

Dr Porter, assisted by Fiona Tibbet from the Ghost Fishing UK team in Norfolk, surveyed every item brought to the surface. Over 80 surveys were done, and thousands of marine animals were documented. Many of these animals were dead. More than 100 crabs, squat lobsters, whelks and fish were returned to the sea.

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The ghost gear was recovered onto the deck of MV Halton, skippered by Bob Anderson. He has commissioned the Bigscapacleanup website and app to help collect data on ghost gear seen by recreational divers on the wrecks - divers can log what they discover on the site, and the gear can then be recovered by Ghost Fishing UK.

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Bob Anderson said: 'Ghost Fishing UK cleared a large swathe of assorted debris from the wrecks of Scapa and left a little corner of the world in a better place having had a spring clean. There are less snags to trap the unwary, less plastic stuff to look unsightly and an ongoing programme of underwater clearing projects around the UK is starting to form from these small beginnings in Scapa Flow.'

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