From September 3-6, supported by Gesellschaft zur Rettung der Delphine (GRD) and Scubadive West, we carried out a first of its kind ghost fishing gear removal operation (Operation “Stone & Pots”) off the W. Coast of Ireland.
During operation “Stone and Pots”, our team of 6 expert technical divers joined by cameramen and biologists, recovered 57 lost lobster pots, hundreds of meters of rope and several fishing nets from the bottom of the Killary Fjord in Co. Galway.
Lobster pots are accidentally lost when their surface marker buoys get severed during storms or collision with boat traffic, but unfortunately continue to fish when left unattended at the seabed. Many marine life was found dead in these traps although some lucky crabs, lobsters, conger eels and dogfish (a small shark species) were saved by the divers who released them just in time.
The retrieved lobster pots were taken on board a mussel boat, and offloaded in the local fishing harbor Rosroe Pier, where they were returned to the fishermen to use them once more. The locations of some of the pots were known to us as we had recorded their coordinates during a survey mission in May 2018, but most pots were found at previously undived locations and were alarmingly easy to find: the seabed is littered with them, and many more remain in situ to this day.
On September 5th, the Galway Aquarium hosted a presentation to introduce Ghost Fishing and GRD to the Irish public while the next day, our divers joined a beach cleanup in Grattan, Salthill organised by the Aquarium and Clean Coasts. Both side events were well attended and provided a good opportunity for the locals to learn about our work.
We aim to return to Ireland next year and intend to establish a permanent chapter there. If you are an experienced technical diver and would like to be part of the Ghost Fishing Ireland chapter, we hope to hear from you!