Popular UK Wreck Dive Finally Cleared of Nets by Volunteers

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Ghost Fishing UK team members hauling recovered nets onto the harbour (Photo: Mark Milburn/Atlantic Scuba)

Volunteer divers and ghost net recovery charities have cleared the wreck of the SS Epsilon in Falmouth Bay, UK, of ghost fishing gear. The process has taken several years and involved volunteers from number of different organisations, including local dive centre Atlantic Scuba, and volunteers from Ghost Fishing UK, Fathoms Free, and Neptune's Army of Rubbish Clearners (NARC).

For many years, the SS Epsilon, a Dutch cargo ship which sank near Falmouth in Cornwall, UK, after striking a German mine in 1917, has been referred to as a 'dirty' wreck, with huge clumps of net tangled with or lying all over the wreck. 

Over the last two years, in excess of two tons of fishing nets, pots and ropes have been recovered, recycled or safely disposed of. The last ghost gear removal on 10 July 2021 removed the last medium-to-large pieces, leaving only deeply embedded remnants.

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Some of the ghost gear trapped around the SS Epsilon wreck (Photo: Ghost Fishing UK)

Clearing the wreck has been a great collective effort from all involved, and now that most of the ghost gear that aggregated around the wreck has been removed, local divers will monitor the site to check if more nets become entangled around the wreck, or are uncovered by shifting local sands.

Luke Bullus of Fathoms Free said: 'As a regular diver of the Epsilon with Atlantic Scuba, it's great to see the wreck is finally clear of ghost gear. Clearing the wreck has been a great collective effort from all involved and it will be interesting to see if more lost and abandoned nets appear on the wreck in the future. Really looking forward to being able to spend more time taking photos of the abundance of marine life found on the wreck rather than filling a mesh bag of ghost gear on every dive!'

'It's been very rewarding to be involved in the clean up of the wreck of the SS Epsilon,' added Fred Nunn of Ghost Fishing UK. 'Between all the organisations involved there must have been over 10 projects and trips, all with the goal to eventually clear the site of Ghost Gear. We are now in the position to have a cleared site to monitor closely and any changes can be documented and investigated for their origin. Plus it is one of my favourite local wrecks so that's a bonus.'

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The team from Fathoms Free celebrating their haul in front of Atlantic Scuba's Moonshadow (Photo: Mark Milburn/Atlantic Scuba)

Mark Milburn, owner of Falmouth-based dive centre, Atlantic Scuba, said: 'As one of the most dived wrecks in Falmouth Bay, the quantities of nets lying around it made it a less pleasant experience. Every time we took divers there, they always commented on the large amount of nets. We had been picking away at it for a while but with Fathom's Free and Ghost Fishing UK spending days on site, it certainly made it happen much faster. Our divers will be keeping an eye out, in case any more ghost fishing gear turns up.'

For more information on the volunteers who give their time to clear the UK's shores of abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear, or to get involved yourself, check out the websites of Ghost Fishing UKFathoms Free, and NARC here. Ghost Fishing UK has recently launched a system for members of the public to report ghost gear sightings and can be found at www.ghostfishing.co.uk/report

For more information on diving Falmouth and the south coast of the UK, check out Atlantic Scuba's website at www.atlanticscuba.co.uk


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