The removal by six scuba divers of ghost-nets from the wreck of USS Moody has marked the return of the international Ghost Diving volunteer force to the USA.
Divers from the new Ghost Diving USA chapter of the charity already well-established in Europe, North Africa and New Zealand linked up in late April with international non-profit organisation Healthy Seas to clean the wreck and recycle the materials recovered.
The chapter was originally set up as a group of technical divers in southern California in the mid-2000s, concentrating on a rather more long-term project – a squid-fishing vessel called Infidel, sunk at a depth of 45m near Catalina Island. That wreck is said to have taken almost two years to clean and make safe, but lack of funding ruled out continuing operations after that.
The destroyer Moody, built just after WW1, was deliberately sunk in 1933 in the making of the Hollywood movie Hell Below. The wreck, which lies in a kelp-forested area an hour out from Los Angeles, had been steadily accumulating fishing nets for nearly 90 years – part of the 580,000 tonnes of such gear estimated to be lost or discarded in the oceans annually.
Despite having to work at depths to 45m in bad visibility and strong currents, the divers still managed to retrieve 135kg of tuna and squid netting on their single dive. On their two boats, a dozen surface supporters released marine life including crabs, worms and sea anemones that had been entangled or were growing on the ghost-nets.
“During the departure and arrival back to San Pedro, the sight of humpback whales, dolphins and playful sea-lions acted as a living reminder of why we were there,” said Healthy Seas director Veronika Mikos. “These beautiful animals are often the victims of pollution caused by fishing waste. The enthusiasm that vibrated throughout the day made our USA kick-off more special than we could have ever imagined.”
“Thanks to the support of Healthy Seas, we look forward to continuing regular sea clean-ups in the area, and are already surveying the wreck of UB88 and Farnsworth Bank, a beautiful reef that is populated by the very rare purple hydrocoral,” said Ghost Diving USA’s co-ordinator Norbert Lee.
Healthy Seas looks after the recycling of recovered net and line, with founding partner Aquafil regenerating nylon into Econyl yarn that can be used to make swimwear, sports wear, carpets, socks and other products. Another partner, Bracenet, creates hand-made accessories, while artists reprocess other recovered materials.
In Europe Ghost Diving is currently carrying out major Mediterranean projects in Cyprus, Lebanon and the Greek island of Ithaca.