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Marine Life & Conservation

Divers recover 1500kg of lost fishing gear from Shetland waters

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Award winning charity Ghost Fishing UK are on their way home after a groundbreaking week, helping fishermen clean up lost fishing gear around Shetland.

They arrived and began diving on 6th August for one week aboard the MV Valhalla and in 6 days recovered 1500kg of lost fishing gear. It included a trawl net from the wreck of the Fraoch Ban, 41 creel pots and some keeper pots; all were returned to fishermen.

12 volunteer divers travelled to Shetland with the help of Northlink Ferries sponsoring their travel, helping out with a trip that totalled £18,000 to run.

Northlink said “We are delighted to be able to support such a worthwhile project…we hope (Ghost Fishing UK) have a good journey home. Well done to all involved. It looks like they have had a very successful time in Shetland clearing ghost gear. We are proud sponsors.

The charity selects and trains divers themselves, all on a volunteer basis and the divers were grateful to receive support from Reel Diving and Halcyon Dive Systems who provided extra reinforcements such as extra bright pink lift bags, surface marker buoys, reels and regulators.

Trip organiser and charity trustee Christine Grosart explained “We were invited to Shetland by a group called Fishing Forward, who were concerned about the abundance of abandoned gill nets around Scottish waters which were being pulled in by their own trawlers. These nets are not used by local fishermen, yet they are causing havoc with wildlife and there are huge concerns about pollution, net dumping and littering from foreign gill netters.

The charity is committed to working with the fishing community to try and solve the issues of ghost fishing, a phenomenon where lost or abandoned fishing gear continues to do its job, catching and killing marine life until it is removed from the sea. The charity has been heavily dependent on reports from fishermen to locate and remove lost fishing gear, particularly strings of creels.

Christine went on to explain “The gill nets tend to be in very deep water, and as they are often dumped, we have no way of knowing where they are. We decided to pick low hanging fruit this week and try and get some lost creels back to the local fishermen, whilst starting a discussion on how we can work together to solve bigger problems of gill nets. We could not have done this without the cooperation of the Shetland fishing community. Hazel, master of MV Valhalla has been working tirelessly to get the word out to fishermen that we were coming up to help. We are eternally grateful to her and the fishermen who reported their lost pots – they were delighted to get them back again.

The divers headed 2 hours north to find a string of lost pots and returned them to their owner. Later in the week, another good report with clear marks led the team to recover another 20 pots, all of which were good enough to be taken back into operation by their owner and other fishermen who were happy to fix them up.

Keen to learn more about the fishing practices in the area, Arlene Robertson from Fishing Forward introduced the divers to John-Arthur, skipper of Kiama and he welcomed two of the team out on his creel boat for the day.

We had the best day ever” Christine says “Matt and I  learned so much from John-Arthur. He didn’t hold back telling us about the struggles of smaller local boats and we felt compelled at the end of the day to do all we could to help. He was kind enough to let us have a go at emptying and stacking creels, although I don’t think he’ll be offering us a job any time soon! What these guys do is incredible!

On Thursday, the charity hosted an event at the Shetland Museum, with food provided by Hay’s Dock, followed by speakers from Ghost Fishing UK with an update on the Shetland project, then a talk from Arlene Robertson (Fishing Forward) about concerns surrounding industrial gill netting and pollution. The evening rounded up with Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary and there was barely a dry eye in the house, followed by a question and answer session for the audience.

Attendee Jeanette said: “What a splendid, informative evening… Well done for organising. Great to hear about the work Ghost Fishing UK do….and (Fishing Forward) did a great job speaking up about the impossible situation the fishermen here and in the UK are finding themselves in. Hats off to you for all you are doing.”

Spokesperson for Fishing Forward, Alastair Inkster said “We had a very enjoyable presentation last night in the Lerwick museum from the Ghost Fishing UK team of divers in Shetland, at present recovering lost netting and creels.

The work this team is doing in cleaning up our marine environment is invaluable and we at Fishing Forward UK fully support their work and wish them every success in future.”

On Wednesday, when weather prevented diving from the boat, half the divers visited Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary to meet the latest intake, three seal pups in need of human care prior to release.

Pete and Jan who have been running the sanctuary for 36 years said “It was extremely gratifying to have the team from Ghost Fishing UK arriving in Shetland to work on clearing old fishing nets, ropes and creels from the seabed around the islands. They are a passionate bunch of highly skilled people doing great work for our marine environment, which is in such desperate need of help from humankind. What made their visit even more inspiring was the close working relationship they have developed with Shetland’s fishing crews who are feeling squeezed by a pincer movement of government regulation on one side and unregulated competition on the other.

To witness conservationists working hand in hand with the fishing community to take on the responsibility of cleaning up our oceans is exactly the sort of example the world needs right now.

The others set about responding to a report from a local lady in Gunnister Voe, recovering a mess of ropes and lost pots that had been long abandoned, from the shore.

The charity enlisted volunteers from the public to help with the washing down operation and were stunned to find that some people had travelled to Shetland specifically to help the charity.

I couldn’t believe it” Christine said “They just turned up and set about pressure washing, sorting and bagging ropes, net and stacking pots. We clean the ropes because they are made of polypropylene and this can be recycled by our partner, Ocean Plastic Pots. All we needed was some help getting them back to the mainland.”

Two of those volunteers, Maggie and Simon Wilcox said “Beach cleaning at our home in Overstrand, Norfolk during Covid kept us active and focussed. We now pick beach rubbish wherever we go, home or away. When I read on social media that Ghost Fishing UK was heading to Shetland at the same time as us, we jumped at the opportunity to help out at the quayside and volunteer with these fabulous folks who give up their time to rid our coastal waters of ghost gear.”

The charity requested assistance from a local haulier and the very same day, Bryan Hepburn from DFDS Haulage Shetland responded.

As soon as I heard about Ghost Fishing UK and spoke to Christine I knew this was something we’d be keen to support.” Bryan explains “ Cleaning debris from the sea, helping inshore fishermen recover lost gear and working in sympathy with local communities all chime with our core values and lived experience as members of a remote fishing community.  With everything we do at DFDS supporting the cold chain transport of seafood across the UK we do it responsibly and sensibly.  The team at Ghost Fishing UK are similar, the work they have done and the expertise they’ve shown is impressive.”

DFDS will assist the charity in shipping the sorted and cleaned ropes to Ocean Plastic Pots for recycling and the remaining ropes to Somerset for collection by artists, jewellery makers and similar. At the end of the week, the charity was delighted that the quayside was empty.

Lerwick port authority also supported the project, by offering an ideal berth for free to the team. Stuart Wadley, the Port Authority’s HSEQ Manager, said: “Ghost Fishing is to be congratulated on its efforts which are in line with our own commitment to protect the environment in all our operations and to work with third parties wherever appropriate. Ghost nets are often from foreign vessels and full of unintended catch.”

Chair of Ghost Fishing UK, associate professor of citizen science, Richard Walker, PhD, was keen that the project had a scientific element too. He said, “Successful outcomes in conservation efforts require a huge cooperation between volunteers, industrial partners and the scientific community.

The citizen science performed by Ghost Fishing UK divers for the Scottish Entanglement Alliance, augmented by professional scientific input from University Highlands and Islands, mean that the data recorded will form the foundations of ongoing conservation work in Shetland and around the United Kingdom.”

Ghost Fishing UK hope to return to Shetland to continue their work and are appealing for Fishermen to report and gear losses to their dedicated reporting system here: www.ghostfishing.co.uk/fishermans-reporting

You can follow the project on all social media platforms and visiting www.ghostfishing.co.uk

Marine Life & Conservation

The Shark Trust Great Shark Snapshot is back

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The last week of July will see the return of the Shark Trust’s citizen science initiative, The Great Shark Snapshot. It invites divers and snorkellers, all around the world, to record the sharks and rays that they see. This year it takes place between the 20th and 28th July.

The event is back for its 3rd year, and it is happening in “Shark Month”, more commonly known as July! To coincide with a series of events that celebrate all things shark and ray.

Divers, their clubs, dive centres, charter boats and liveaboards are all encouraged to show their support by organising dives and events through the week. As well as gathering vital data, the event will provide a chance to celebrate the incredible shark and ray species that live in our ocean.

Information about the species and numbers of sharks and rays the participants find over the week will be added to the Shark Trust’s Shark Log. This global shark census will, over time, allow shark scientists to build a picture of species distribution and any changes that occur

Caroline Robertson-Brown, Marketing Manager at the Shark Trust said “It is great to see this popular citizen science event back for its 3rd year. Whether you are diving your local dive site, or on a trip of a lifetime, we want divers to join in on the Great Shark Snapshot in July. I cannot wait to hear from the divers and dive organisations about the species of sharks and rays that they see. And where in the world they see them.”

It is easy to join in. Just go diving between 20th and 28th July and record every shark, ray and skate that you and your dive group sees. If possible, take photos and some video footage too. Then make sure that you record your sightings on the Shark Trust Shark Log recordings website or by using the Shark Trust app.

The Great Shark Snapshot is a way for divers to get together, go diving, and do something to help shark conservation. Why not dive in?

Find out more here: www.sharktrust.org/snapshot

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The Ocean Cleanup to Complete 100th Extraction Live from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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the ocean cleanup
  • The Ocean Cleanup marks 100th extraction of plastic pollution from the Pacific Ocean by livestreaming entire cleaning operation from start to finish.
  • Occasion brings together supporters, partners, donors and followers as the project readies its cleanup technology for scale-up.
  • Founder and CEO Boyan Slat to provide insight on the plans ahead.

The Ocean Cleanup is set to reach a milestone of 100 plastic extractions from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Extraction #100, scheduled for 28 or 29 May 2024, will be the first ever to be livestreamed direct from the Pacific Ocean, allowing supporters and partners around the world to see up close how the organization has removed over 385,000 kilograms (nearly 850,000 lbs) of plastic from the GPGP so far – more than double the bare weight of the Statue of Liberty.

the ocean cleanup

The mission of The Ocean Cleanup is to rid the oceans of plastic. To do this, the non-profit project employs a dual strategy: cleaning up legacy floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (the world’s largest accumulation of floating plastic), while stopping the flow of plastic from the world’s most polluting rivers.

The Ocean Cleanup captured its first plastic (the first ‘extraction’) in the GPGP in 2019 with System 001, following years of trials and testing with a variety of concepts. Through System 002 and now the larger and more efficient System 03, the organization has consistently improved and optimized operations, and is now preparing to extract plastic trash from the GPGP for the 100th time.

the ocean cleanup

Extraction #100 will be an interactive broadcast showing the entire extraction procedure live and in detail, with insight provided by representatives from across The Ocean Cleanup and partners contributing to the operations.

This is an important milestone in a key year for The Ocean Cleanup.’ said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. ‘We’ve come a long way since our first extraction in 2019. During the 2024 season, with System 03, we aim to demonstrate that we are ready to scale up, and with it, confine the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the history books.

the ocean cleanup

The livestream will be hosted on The Ocean Cleanup’s YouTube channel and via X. Monitor @theoceancleanup for confirmed timings.

www.theoceancleanup.com

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