After a successful clean-up operation last year, international marine-conservation bodies have returned to the same Greek island to tackle another “ghost farm” – and now report that their “Return to Ithaca” initiative is complete.
The previous project, carried out by Healthy Seas, Ghost Diving and partners in 2021, resulted in 76 tonnes of marine litter being removed from Ithaca’s seas and beaches in eight days by a team of 45, including 20 scuba divers, as reported on Divernet. The volunteers had been tackling the environmentally damaging remains of a long-abandoned fish-farm.
The same fish-farmers had also run a facility at Kalavri in another of Ithaca’s bays, but simply sank their nets, rings and floats when it closed down.
Now the bigger 2022 project has run from March to June and involved volunteer divers from the Netherlands, UK, Lebanon, Hungary and Greece, working with five local fishers at the ghost farm and 13 other locations, including Vathy harbour.
“We have confronted this environmental crime two years in a row, worked toward restoring it, as well as understanding who is responsible and in a position to do something about it,” said Healthy Seas director Veronika Mikos. “Our goal with this project is to raise awareness about ghost farms and to put an end to them.”
Some 18,500kg of nets, including gill-nets and long-lines, and 5,000kg of other types of marine litter were removed. At the fish-farm site 25 big nets were raised with the help of lifting bags and a crane. Materials recovered will be recycled into Econyl yarn to form the basis of new products, including clothing and carpets.
A public-awareness event, included the screening of a short documentary and photo exhibition about the 2021 campaign, was attended not only by adult islanders but by what Healthy Seas says were most of Ithaca’s child population.
“Everyone on Ithaca is grateful to Healthy Seas and Ghost Diving for their efforts to protect our island two years in a row,” said local environmentalist George Lilas.
“They were aware of the destruction but didn’t have the means to do anything about it besides witnessing their homeland being ruined by unethical – to say the least – business practices.”