Brighton and Hove News »Divers recover 400 pounds of ‘ghost fishing gear’ off Brighton
Volunteer divers recovered ‘ghost fishing gear’ weighing around 400 pounds – over 180 kg – from the seabed around six miles off Brighton.
They set out from Brighton Marina and focused on the fishing nets on the wreck of the Pentyrch, a steam freighter sunk by a German submarine during World War I.
The mission was organized by the Ghost Fishing UK charity and the Sussex Wildlife Trust as part of the trust’s Wild Coast Sussex project.
Ghost Fishing UK said it was responding to “reports from divers in the Brighton area to locate and inspect lost fishing nets on the wreck of the Pentyrch, before developing a plan to remove it”.
The charity said: “Lost or abandoned fishing gear is a problem in our oceans, with an estimated 640,000 tonnes lost to the sea around the world each year.
“The lost nets and pots known as ‘ghost gear’ continue to fish nonstop. The catch is never landed and the trapped animals serve as bait for others in an uninterrupted cycle of needless deaths known as ‘ghost fishing’.
“The team brought the net back on board the Channel Diver dive boat operating from Brighton Marina and the net will now be stored for recycling.
“Despite the restrictions related to covid-19, the team underwent daily testing and diligent hygiene in order to complete the mission.
“This was the second mission the team of volunteers had undertaken to the Sussex area this year following numerous reports from divers of lost nets fouling the wrecks in the area, causing danger not only to the area. them, but also for wildlife along the Sussex coast.
“Working in 18 meters of water the visibility was good – and the divers have so far been able to recover 275 kg of lost nets in just three dives so far this season.”
Ghost Fishing UK administrator Christine Grosart, who also acts as an underwater photographer for the charity, said: “The team were delighted to have been invited to join the Wild Coast Sussex project from Sussex Wildlife Trust.
“It was great having them on the boat so they could see what’s going on at the pointed end of our charity, pulling the ghost gear out of the sea.
“And it was great to finally start cleaning up the area of Sussex we hadn’t been to until this spring.”
The Wild Coast Sussex Project was set up to inspire local communities to take care of the marine environment and enable them to protect their coast and sea.
The project received a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and is supported by the Marine Conservation Society, the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and Brighton Sea Life.
Its objectives are to
- inspire and connect people to the Sussex coast and sea
- involve people in direct action to protect the Sussex coast and sea
- enable learning and activities that encourage people to make positive lifestyle choices and behavior change to reduce negative impacts on the Sussex Coast and Sea
- enable people to share their experiences and influence others to protect the Sussex coast and sea
Ghost Fishing UK was invited to get involved because of their vast experience in training divers to monitor and recover lost fishing gear safely.
It operates an online reporting system open to fishermen and divers.
Wild Coast Sussex Project Manager Nikki Hills joined the team aboard the Channel Diver. She said: ‘It was fantastic to join the Ghost Fishing UK team on a trip to retrieve ghost nets off the Sussex coast and to see firsthand the dedicated work of the divers and the amount of nets which they managed to remove.
“Removing this net is so important because, if left, it can trap valuable marine life and add to plastic in the sea.
“The Wild Coast Sussex Project is really excited to support the work of Ghost Fishing UK – and it’s great to have them in Sussex.”
The SS Pentyrch was a steam freighter that was torpedoed in 1918 near the current site of the Rampion wind farm.
Ghost Fishing UK said much of the wreckage can still be seen protruding from the sandy seabed.
He added: “Unfortunately, these protrusions get caught in fishing nets and can cause them to come loose. They then continue to fish until they can be removed.
Miss Grosart said: “We are very grateful for the reports from the divers on these nets. We are also very keen to work with the fishing industry to recoup these unfortunate, unintentional losses out of the sea.
“We urge fishermen to tell us if they have lost any traps or nets so that we can see if it is possible for us to remove them and then recycle them.
“We are soon launching a dedicated reporting system for fishermen so they can confidently report losses to us. “