Back to the future: four years of Ghost Fishing UK

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Inspiration – Ghost Fishing UK – The first four years. Video: Christine Grosart

Ghost Fishing UK began in Orkney in 2015. A band of British divers joined a team from the Netherlands to be trained in the art and science of ghost gear removal. The team grew, and returned four times to Scapa Flow. Ninety-nine years on from the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet, Ghost Fishing UK announced that all the actively fishing ghost gear was gone from Scapa Flow. Humbled by this milestone, we reflect on what has been achieved so far, and look forward to the work we must do in the years to come.

2018 was a busy year for Ghost Fishing UK, with many milestones.

  • We cleaned up Scapa Flow!
  • We became Registered UK Charity Number 1174396!
  • Our course delivered 22 training days and created 38 new Ghost Fishing UK divers (and 10 course instructors!); and
  • We reached out to the public at 25 talks and events.

Here are our key statistics:

  • Over 70 ghost gear reports received from divers;
  • 38 survey dives made, totaling 315 diver hours;
  • 24 recovery dives made, totaling 337 diver hours in the water;
  • We removed over 100 crab and whelk pots, and
  • 64% of the recovery dives removed net…
  • …and the same for old shot rope;
  • 4 modern vehicle batteries were recovered…
  • …and 3 scallop dredges.

We are dependent on volunteers working together to tackle the ghost gear problem. We were delighted to announce last year that Healthy Seas has pledged funding that will enable at least ten more diving days to be completed in 2019. The recovered fishing nets will be regenerated, together with other nylon waste, by Aquafil into ECONYL® yarn, a high-quality raw material used to create beautiful new products, such as socks, swimwear, sportwear and carpets. Ghost Fishing UK has always worked very closely with our friends from Healthy Seas, and they joined us in Scapa Flow in 2015 to help us get Ghost Fishing UK up and running, and also on our incredible clean-up of the Plymouth wrecks James Eagan Layne in 2017, and Persier in 2018.

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