The problem of ghost fishing gear has reached public prominence over the past five years. It is a normal but unfortunate part of fishing that nets, pots and lines become lost. This is rarely a deliberate act on behalf of the fishing community, but simply a reality of a very harsh environment.
The lost gear continues to catch marine life, as it is designed to do. This has an undoubted but rarely documented effect on the local ecosystem. It is clearly undesirable and nobody benefits from ‘Ghost Gear being present in the ocean. Animals are needlessly killed by this Ghost Gear which unless removed from the sea, continues in a vicious circle of catching animals which in turn act as bait for larger animals and so on.
What we do
Ghost Fishing was set up around 2015 by dedicated divers to try to remove this lost equipment from the marine environment. It is a challenging and difficult task. Ghost gear is typically entangled in reefs and wrecks, and its removal can be complicated.
Ghost Fishing divers survey the site first and collect data on the ghost gear and any animals trapped, alive and dead. The technique of removal involves attaching bags to the gear, which the diver fills with air, making them float. The divers then cut the gear free as close to the seabed as possible. Great care is needed to ensure that the diver does not become entangled with the equipment. This involves a high degree of teamwork, coordination and discipline.
Ghost Fishing UK was initiated in 2015 at an inaugural project in Scapa Flow. The international Ghost Fishing project sent 6 delegates from the Netherlands to assist the projects inception. 6 UK based divers also joined the team and these divers formed the core of new UK team. During this project, over 65 lost creels and pots were recovered, along with 1000 kg of fishing net and over a kilometre of ropes. This material was recycled into clothing, refurbished pots and creels, and the ropes were made into decorative doormats. Very little recovered gear was sent to landfill. The project also started a cooperative effort between Ghost Fishing and Heriot Watt University, particularly Dr. Joanne Porter. She surveyed the marine life present in the pots, creels and ropes. These data now form part of an ongoing research project in Scapa Flow.
Over the winter, Rich Walker, one of the divers on the 2015 project, gave a series of talks and meetings around the country and identified a group of UK divers that were keen to engage in the Ghost Fishing mission. These divers were invited to come to Scapa Flow in 2016. Bob Anderson of MV Halton supported the project, and World Animal Protection donated a significant portion of the funding. The divers were taught how to survey and recover ghost fishing gear and also how to perform simple marine life assessments. Representatives from Cornwall, Bristol and Norfolk joined the project, along with the existing team from 2015.
Now and the Future
Ghost Fishing UK is a registered charity built from dedicated volunteers who all give up their free time to run the organisation, raise public and government awareness of the Ghost Fishing issue and dive to document and recover lost fishing gear.
Ghost Fishing UK wrote the first Ghost Fishing course in the world and are the largest organisation engaged in this activity.
Ghost Fishing UK are actively training new divers on the ‘Ghost Fishing course’ created in early 2018. Groups of regional divers are now active in responding to reports of Ghost Gear and setting up local projects to remove it.
All scuba divers can contribute to the clean up of our oceans by reporting any ghost gear they see on their dives to Ghost Fishing UK through our online reporting system on this website.
Partners and Associates
Ghost Fishing UK receives funding from various sources and we are grateful to have received significant support from Healthy Seas and World Animal Protection.
Ghost Fishing UK works closely with Heriot Watt University, Seasearch and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.
Ghost Fishing UK has worked with SKY news, the BBC and various broadcasters.
Ghost Fishing UK has a talented pool of underwater videographers and photographers and we work closely with the media for maximum public outreach.
We run talks and events around the country. Please see our FAQs page for more information.