Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is Ghost Fishing?
Ghost Fishing is the term used for when Abandoned, Lost and Discarded Fishing Gear or ‘ALDFG’ continues to catch marine life.
The lost and unmanaged fishing gear, which can be pots, nets or lines, continues to catch marine life. Species such as crabs, rays and all kinds of fish get caught up in the lost ghost gear and die. These in turn act as bait for larger animals and can attract large marine mammals such as seals, dolphins, porpoises and whales which have also been found tangled in and killed by ghost gear.
Marine diving birds such as cormorants also succumb to getting caught in lost nets and angling gear.
Q: Who are Ghost Fishing UK?
Ghost Fishing UK is a registered charity no 1174396. It is a community of volunteer scuba divers who use their scuba diving skills to clean up lost and abandoned ‘Ghost Gear’ from the coastline around the UK.
It was set up around 2015 when chairman professor Richard Walker joined the ‘Ghost Fishing’ team from the Netherlands on a project to clean up the SS Argo in Croatia of a huge trawling net.
Ghost Fishing came to Scapa Flow, Orkney, Scotland, to train the selected UK divers in how to safely retrieve ALDFG and in 2016 Ghost Fishing UK was set up.
Q: Who is behind Ghost Fishing UK?
Ghost Fishing UK is run entirely by volunteers. Nobody is paid for any of the work they do and everyone involved has full time jobs.
Please keep this in mind when contacting GFUK. We always aim to respond as soon as we can but please also be patient as we may be at work.
Chairperson: Professor Richard Walker.
Richard earned his PhD in 1998 at the University of Sheffield, in blood flow modelling.
In 2018 he was awarded the title of Associate Professor in Citizen Science
Heriot Watt University, for his ongoing work with Ghost Fishing UK.
He is the Director and chief instructor for Wreck and Cave Ltd and teaches technical diving for a living. He teaches Tech 2 trimix right through to CCR and is an Instructor Evaluator for Global Underwater Explorers and sits on the board of advisors.
He is a passionate about wrecks and is a cave explorer, with the end of several lines to his name.
He has been a team diver on the famed ‘Mars the Magnificent’ project in the Baltic sea. He also runs ‘Project Tiger’, surveying and documenting the LSTs sunk in the D-Day preparations.
Secretary: Christine Grosart
Chris is primarily a cave diver and explorer, starting out diving with the Cave Diving Group in 2004 and has made several underwater cave discoveries in France and Croatia. She still holds the British female cave diving depth record in Wookey Hole and is an examiner for the CDG. She was responsible for writing the Ghost Fishing UK training course and is one of the course trainers.
She is a FdSc Paramedic by trade and now mainly works offshore as a dive medic.
She is also a photographer and videographer for GFUK and manages the media and edits films and images for public awareness.
Chris has been an MCS beach clean warden for Chesil Cove in Dorset and engages in SeaSearch dives when she can. She is also project Manager for Project Baseline South Wales Caves and Ghost Fishing feeds her passion for conservation and the environment.
When she is not doing all this she is a professional caving instructor and owns ‘WetWellies Caving’ introducing the public to the underground world.
Treasurer: Fred Nunn
Fred started diving in 2001 and is a BSAC Open Water Instructor and is qualified BSAC Explorer Mixed Gas 60m.
He is an Automation Maintenance Engineer for the Royal Mail and resides in Cornwall, a diving mecca. He has been instrumental in managing the red tape and administrative hurdles involved with Ghost Fishing such as license applications and fund raising initiatives. Fred is one of our valued Ghost Fishing course trainers and is excellent at inventing new training methods.
Fred loves the outdoors and can be found in caves, doing archery and he’s pretty good at driving dive boats as well.
A perfectionist, Fred has boundless energy and never seems to run out of steam in his mission to raise the bar in whatever he is doing at the time.
Q: How did Ghost Fishing start?
The Ghost Fishing Foundation originated in the Dutch North Sea around 2013 and was the brainchild of diver, Pascal Van Erp. He organized a group of divers to clean up ghost nets and the organization has grown with the help of Healthy Seas, who aim to recycle as much ghost gear as possible and avoid landfill.
Richard Walker joined the Pascal and the Dutch team in Croatia in 2014 to clean up the SS Argo, which lies in 50m of water. The team removed a huge trawling net from the wreck and the idea to bring this work to the UK evolved.
In 2015 the Dutch divers linked up with a group of selected British divers, hand picked by Richard Walker and they spent a week in Scapa Flow, Orkney cleaning up the WWI wrecks and showing the British divers how it is done.
Q: How do I get involved in what you do?
We welcome as many people as possible to get involved in any of the following ways:
Sign up to our newsletter. This gives details of upcoming events where we may need help, training courses and public awareness campaigns.
Join Our Newsletter
Fundraising. We are always in need of fundraisers as GFUK has expenses such as licenses, training materials, ghost gear disposal costs and although GFUK divers mainly pay for all their diving expenses themselves, we sometimes like to help out with these costs when we can. Ghost Fishing dives are usually poor visibility, hard work, messy and expensive.
In July 2018, Ghost Fishing UK officially set out on a partnership with Healthy Seas who offer a huge amount of support to operations here in the UK, from funding to disposal and recycling solutions.
Events and public awareness:
GFUK attend several talks and events throughout the year. We are always looking for people who can apply their skills and come along to help. Volunteers will be fully briefed.
We often need boat crew, people with design and Photoshop skills, editing skills, proof reading and photography.
Q: I’d like to get involved…who do I contact?
You can contact Ghost Fishing UK in the following ways:
Contact us through our Website
Email firstname.lastname@example.org This is monitored by the committee and you will get a response within a few days. Please be patient as we are all volunteers and have real jobs!
Facebook (our chosen Social Media platform). Messages are managed by the committee.
Follow us on Instagram
Q: I’m a scuba diver and I would like to get involved. Can I come on a trip to help out?
Ghost Fishing work can be very dangerous – after all, divers are in very close proximity to ghost gear that they would normally avoid on a regular dive.
For this reason, Ghost Fishing UK have a selection process for courses and joining recovery dives.
Ghost Fishing UK runs ad hoc courses for divers who wish to get involved. Interested divers are selected based on level of engagement with the organisation, level of diving experience, sensible attitude and dedication to conservation.
As a minimum, requirements to join a course are:
– Minimum SCUBA qualification: Sports Diver/Rescue Diver or equivalent.
– Nitrox Certification.
– Minimum 100 logged dives.
– Training or minimum 25 dives in a manifolded twinset.
– Minimum 25 dives in a drysuit.
– At least 20 logged dives to have been undertaken in the year preceding the course start date.
It is recommended that divers are proficient and comfortable in drysuits and have a strong team diving ethos and positive attitude towards safety. At present, only Open Circuit is permitted on Ghost Fishing UK courses.
Ghost Fishing UK is not agency specific and divers from all organisations and training backgrounds are welcome.
Courses are completely free (refundable commitment fee of £200 applies) and delivered by volunteers who give up their time to run them. Therefore courses are run at times that suit the trainers and while we appreciate there is a high demand, we only have so much time available in our personal schedules. Dates will be fixed by the training team and interested divers who fit the criteria are invited to attend.
Q: I’m a scuba diver but I don’t meet these requirements. What else can I do?
Ghost Fishing UK will find something for you!
We will identify what you are good at and will welcome your assistance whether that be fundraising, media support, helping at shows and events or crewing on boats. Chipping in and getting to know the team will help you along your way to being a Ghost Fishing diver until you have enough skill and experience to join the dives.
Q: Do you get paid for recovering Ghost Gear?
No. We are not paid.
This would mean our divers are deemed ‘at work’ and all that brings with HSE requirements. Everything we do, including the training courses, is completely voluntary and normally costs us our personal time and money. We have a very dedicated team!
On the contrary, Ghost Fishing UK must pay the government via the Marine Management Organisation a fee of £50 per site to be permitted to remove Ghost Gear from the ocean.
Q: How are Ghost Fishing trips funded?
Divers are more often than not completely self-funding on our regular recovery dives.
Our trips to Scapa Flow have been sponsored by supporters such as World Animal Protection and the FatFace Foundation – Caring for our Oceans.
We have recently formed an official partnership with Healthy Seas who plan to support a significant proportion of our activities throughout the year through funding from their partners and this is expected to relieve a lot of the financial burden on the team.
One thing we never get back is time; annual leave, days off work unpaid etc. GFUK divers dedicate much of their time to the cause.
Q: How do you know where the Ghost Gear is?
Ghost Fishing UK has an online Reporting Form which is collating a lot of data on the Ghost Gear problem. When divers spot lost nets or pots on their dives, they are encouraged to report it so that the Ghost Fishing team can take a look and make a plan to recover it. Divers who contribute regularly and engage with us with good information are most likely to be invited on upcoming training courses if they wish.
The data is available to any official research body or university that has an interest in studying the effects of Ghost Gear on the oceans. The Global Ghost Gear Initiative collects data about lost ghost gear around the world and Ghost Fishing UK contributes to this via our reporting system.
Q: What happens to the ghost gear when it is recovered?
Sadly the UK is poorly equipped to deal with old ghost gear.
At this time there is no facility in the UK that can deal with old, dirty ghost nets and nowhere that can recycle creels (crab/lobster pots).
The only place in Europe that can manage filthy old ghost nets is in Slovenia. Healthy Seas have made it possible for us to get our recovered ghost nets to Europe and storage solutions in the meantime remain a challenge.
Ghost nets that can be recycled include nylon and monofilament. Polypropylene unfortunately is valueless and makes up a large proportion of the nets GFUK are finding. Likewise, lobster pots and ‘creels’ are hard to recycle when recovered.
Items of ghost gear that cannot be recycled are taken to landfill.
GFUK aims to raise awareness of the historical lack of consideration for ‘end of life’ fishing gear with the aim of encouraging the fishing industry to take responsibility for its waste and not simply passing the issue onto landfill, creating another legacy problem.
Q: Do you record any data and where does it go?
GFUK records everything. All ghost gear is surveyed prior to retrieval and animals, dead or alive are also documented when still in the water. Any that can be released at the time of discovery, are. Sometimes this is not practical and it is quicker to release them once on the surface.
Our data goes to universities, the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and any parties interested in our citizen science, such as SeaSearch UK.
Q: Why don’t you just buy your own boat?
As scuba divers, we like to support the diving industry and coastal diving can’t flourish without the skippers and boats that operate around the UK.
We have found that RHIBS are inadequate for the amounts of gear we are recovering. They have very little storage, no mechanical assistance and carry fewer divers.
Therefore, a minimum of a 12 seat hard boat is required to even come close to what we need to recover large amounts of ghost gear.
The purchase price and running/mooring costs of a hard boat are not a good use of our money, so we charter existing dive boats and make good relationships with experienced skippers and charter owners who enjoy getting involved with this kind of work. After all, the ocean is their livelihood.
Ghost Fishing UK is very fortunate to have a good relationship with a wide variety of dive charters around the UK and we have had a lot of success working with them.
Q: What are you doing to stop ghost gear getting into the ocean in the first place?
Ghost Fishing UK is closely linked to Heriot Watt University, who are working hard on sustainable inshore fisheries and looking into the issue of ghost gear as one of the contributing factors when it comes to sustainability.
GFUK have a Reporting Form, which is critical in gathering data of the scale of the problem.
Without this data, it is impossible to explain the significance of the issue to anyone who will listen and preventing the gear from being lost in the first place depends on proving that it is happening.
GFUK supports divers in documenting and reporting any ghost gear they see on their dives and responding to reports to make plans to retrieve it.
By photographing and filming the impact that Ghost Gear has, we are in a unique position to demonstrate what is going on in our oceans to the non-diving public, who have both a voice and a vote.
Stopping fishermen from losing nets or pots accidentally from bad weather or accidental breakage, is almost impossible as it is not a deliberate act.
Proving liability for the deliberate discarding of ghost gear is also extremely difficult.
Ghost Fishing UK is NOT anti-fishing. We take the approach that if we work with the fishing community rather than pointing the finger of blame, they are far more likely to engage with us and tell us where they lost their nets or pots so that we can recover them in a timely manner.
This is already working and we have a number of fishing boats willing to offer support and information and in some cases, the use of their vessels, to locate and recover lost fishing gear.
There are a number of projects and ideas for aiding the prevention of ALDFG but with an estimated figure of 640,000 metric tonnes of ghost gear already in the oceans, the legacy issue has left a mammoth clean up task.
This document details the ALDFG issue.
Q: I’d love you guys to give a talk at my dive club /event? What should I do?
Ghost Fishing UK has published the following advice to anyone who would like us to give talks at your club or event:
The team have given talks in London, Bournemouth, Reading, Plymouth, Orkney, Manchester, Great Northern Dive Show, and Sharkfest in Bristol.
If you are thinking about asking us to give a talk at your club, organisation or event, here are a few tips.
– Please try to have a projector and screen at your venue. Due to the widespread locations of speakers, we cannot always obtain one or share one around.
– Please advertise your event far and wide. Let us know so that we can promote it as well.
– Please aim to maximise numbers. We don’t have the capacity to run multiple talks within a few miles of one another. Please invite your local clubs and organisations to join. It is easier for us to deliver one big talk than multiple small ones. Remember, we may need to take annual leave or drop a days work to accommodate your event.
– Please work with us to run raffles etc to raise funds for our charity. Your speaker may well have travelled a long way or had to stay overnight at their own expense. Please consider ways of helping them offset these costs if possible.
Ghost Fishing UK are very happy to help out at your event but be aware we are super busy throughout the spring and summer months. We will post up any talks that we are giving and would encourage you to come along if you are in the area. Thank you everyone, for your continued support.