Huge Haul of Deadly Lost Fishing Gear Removed From Sussex Seabed

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Almost 200kg of abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear – also known as ‘Ghost Gear’ – has been recovered from the seabed by volunteer divers from the charity Ghost Fishing UK, in a collaborative project with Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Ghost Fishing UK was responding to reports from scuba divers in the Brighton, UK, area to locate and survey lost fishing nets on the shipwreck of the Pentyrch, before making a plan to remove it. The SS Pentyrch was a cargo steamship that was torpedoed in 1918. Much of the wreckage protrudes from the sandy seabed where it snags or breaks fishing gear, which remains dangerously in situ until it can be removed.

An estimated 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear is lost at sea each year. Lines, nets and pots continue 'ghost fishing', trapping animals that will never be landed which will eventually cause them to starve, drown or suffocate. In turn, the dead animals become bait for others, continuing the neverending cycle of wasteful marine life deaths.

Undergoing daily Covid-19 testing and observing diligent hygiene practice, Ghost Fishing UK's team of specially trained volunteers recovered the net from the Pentyrch and hauled it on board the support diving vessel, Channel Diver, operating out of Brighton Marina. The net will be stored until it can be safely recycled. 

The Pentyrch mission is the second undertaken by the team in the Sussex region this year, which has now recovered 275kg of ghost gear this season in just three dives.

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Christine Grosart,  trustee and underwater photographer for Ghost Fishing UK, said:  'The team were delighted to be asked to join up with Sussex Wildlife Trust’s "Wild Coast Sussex" project. It was great to have them on the boat so that they could see what goes on at the sharp end of our charity, removing ghost gear from the sea and it was great to finally start cleaning up the Sussex region where we had not been before this spring.'

Wild Coast Sussex was set up through a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, and works with Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA), and Brighton SEA LIFE to inspire and connect local communities with the Sussex coast and sea and engage them in direct action and learning to protect the local environment.

'It was fantastic to join the Ghost Fishing UK team on a trip to recover ghost nets off the Sussex Coast and see first-hand the dedicated work of the divers and the amount of net they managed to remove,' said Nikki Hills, project manager for Wild Coast Sussex. 'Removing this net is so important because if left, it can trap precious marine wildlife and add to plastic in the sea. The Wild Coast Sussex Project is really pleased to support the work of Ghost Fishing UK and it’s great to have them in Sussex.'

Ghost Fishing UK had been alerted to the Pentyrch ghost gear by scuba divers through Ghost Fishing's online reporting system, which is available for use by divers, watersports enthusiasts and members of the fishing industry.

'We are very grateful for the reports from divers about these nets,' said Grosart. 'We are also very keen to work with the fishing industry to get these unfortunate losses, which are not deliberate, back out of the sea. We would urge fishermen to tell us if they have lost any pots or nets so that we can see if it is possible for us to remove and then recycle them, or in some cases return them, keeping them out of the ocean forever. We are soon launching a reporting system dedicated for fishermen so that they can report losses to us in confidence.'

 

Ghost gear reports can be made to Ghost Fishing UK on the charity's website at www.ghostfishing.co.uk/report/. Follow the team's work on Instagram @GhostFishingUK, Facebook @GhostFishingUK and Twitter @ghost_fishinguk

 

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