Ghost squad strips net off Lampedusa wrecks

Volunteer GUE closed-circuit rebreather divers from five countries have teamed up to remove ghost fishing-gear from WW2 shipwrecks that had been menacing both marine life and recreational divers in the Mediterranean. Their eight-day expedition was carried out between Italy’s Lampedusa Island and Tunisia in late June.  

Also read: Ghost Fishing UK divers on Shetland net mission

Healthy Seas, which collects and recycles lost and discarded fishing net, says that the operation marked the third year of its collaboration with the charity Ghost Diving and the Society for the Documentation of Submerged Sites (SDSS).

Diver on the unidentified wreck (Derk Remmers)
Diver assessing a wreck (Derk Remmers)

The team, drawn from Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece and Lebanon, focused much of its attention on an unidentified shipwreck that still contains vehicles and several aerial bombs. The divers recovered one massive net that weighed about 700kg. The net, believed by the team to have originated in Egypt, is being upcycled to make new nets.

The divers also captured more than 12,000 photos to use for photogrammetry, so that 3D virtual models can be created to make the wrecks more accessible to both researchers and the wider public. 

The dive-team at work (Derk Remmers)
The dive-team at work (Derk Remmers)
Wreck draped in ghost-net requiring removal (Derk Remmers)
Wreck draped in net requiring removal (Derk Remmers)

Space-saving rebreathers

“Since 2007, when our team began exploring the wrecks at this location, we are continuously running into fishing-nets,” said SDSS founder Mario Arena. The Italian non-profit was founded in 1999 to research and protect submerged heritage of all kinds. “The collaboration with Healthy Seas and Ghost Diving is allowing us to make progress in our historical discoveries.”

The drying net gives some idea of the scale of the problem (Ghost Diving)
Drying net gives an idea of the scale of the initiative (Ghost Diving)

Using rebreathers provided additional safety for the divers as well as saving space on the compact dive-boat. “Due to the remoteness of the location dived, as well as the sparse supplies on board, we consider this to be our most unique project,” said Ghost Diving founder Pascal van Erp, who is now also Healthy Seas deputy director.

Returning to the boat (Imad Farhat)
Returning to the boat (Imad Farhat)

Healthy Seas collects waste from the sea to be regenerated into Econyl yarn, which is then turned into products such as swimwear, sportswear, carpets or socks. Other types of plastic nets and litter are turned into jewellery and accessories, it says, with more than 905 tons collected over the past 10 years.

Hyundai Motor Europe funded the expedition, as it has backed Healthy Seas’ clean-up and education activities since 2021. Ghost Diving has now been removing lost or discarded fishing-gear since 2009: “We look forward to returning again next year to continue protecting the environment and the wondrous submerged historical wrecks found in this part of the Mediterranean,” said Van Erp.

Also on Divernet: Divers bust ghost farm 2 in ‘Return to Ithaca’, Net result for Ghost Diving USA, Ghost divers collect nets – and data, Two teams to form Ghost Diving UK, Divers answer epic clean-up call


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Emir murat icel
Emir murat icel
7 months ago

Well done guys, you deserve to be saluted.
Wish all of you safe dives.

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