Divers tackle ghost gear in Scapa

archive – Diving NewsDivers tackle ghost gear in Scapa

A team of specialist divers are busy clearing “ghost gear” – lost or discarded fishing-net, line and pots – from wrecks in Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands this week (25-30 September).

Their project, supported by welfare charity World Animal Protection UK and co-ordinated by Ghost Fishing UK, aims not only to clear and recycle the waste but to study its effects on marine life, and assess how the scale of the problem can be reduced.

Dr Joanne Porter, a marine researcher from Heriot Watt University, is concentrating on this aspect of the project. Data collected, including identified marine-life found in abandoned pots, will be entered on a global ghost-gear database.

Ghost gear, although abandoned, goes on catching and killing marine life and places additional strain on fishing stocks. Litter accumulated on Scapa Flow wrecks includes lobster and whelk pots, crab creels, ropes and diver shotlines. 

Last year on a similar mission more than 60 pots, large fishing-nets, 2km of rope and significant amounts of other fishing debris were recovered and a large proportion recycled, says WAP UK.

“Ghost-fishing is a huge global issue for marine animals – a staggering 640,000 tons of ghost gear is lost in our oceans each year,” says Christina Dixon, WAP UK’s Campaigns Manager.

The weight of this litter, greater than that of the Titanic, represents about a tenth of total marine debris. “Funding this project will remove the immediate problem for marine life and also provide us with the evidence to help stop the problem in the future.”

The dive-team is based in Stromness and supported by skipper Bob Anderson of mv Halton. Those divers involved who require training are taught to cut line and lift objects from the seabed safely.

More information about the project here

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