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Marine Life & Conservation

Ghost Fishing UK clean up at the Plastic Free Awards

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The ocean conservation charity Ghost Fishing UK has netted the ‘Best Plastic Campaign’ prize at the ‘Plastic free Awards 2021’ for their voluntary work cleaning up our oceans of lost fishing gear.

It is estimated that 640,000 tonnes of lost fishing gear or ‘ghost gear’ is lost into our oceans each year. Modern fishing gear is primarily made of plastics and not only continues catching and killing wildlife once it has been lost, but leaves a legacy issue of broken down plastic circulating in our oceans. These fragments known as microplastics can be ingested by animals and ultimately end up in our food chain.

The Plastic Free Awards returned for their second year to celebrate those making the biggest waves in the fight against plastic pollution. The awards are a unique opportunity to recognise the achievements of campaigners, innovators, small businesses and communities across the UK leading the charge on plastic.

Partnering with Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation, the awards are designed to bring together environmental champions and leaders of the plastic free movement. With 12 award categories covering all areas from Best Plastic Campaign to Youth Activist Award, anyone can be nominated; yourself, a friend, family member, school, community, or business – anyone you think is a plastic free hero. Shortlisted nominees are chosen by a panel of expert judges.

Volunteer divers from the charity Ghost Fishing UK are carefully selected to survey and recover lost fishing gear which is reported through their website. Both divers and fishermen are invited to report fishing gear losses so the team can recover them, stopping the cycle of death and pollution in its tracks.

The materials are then stored until they reach sufficient quantities to be recycled into various items, including plant pots.

Operations Officer and trustee for the charity Fred Nunn is based in Cornwall and said: “It’s so humbling to be recognised by the community when there are so, so many others all doing truly amazing things all towards a common goal.”

Scuba divers who make the grade are put through an intensive training course over three days to prepare them for dealing with ghost nets. The job underwater can be dangerous, often with poor visibility, hard physical work and the ever present risk of the divers becoming entangled in the nets themselves.

On the day of the awards ceremony, many of the divers missed the event as they were finishing up a project in Brighton to remove a huge net form the wreck of the Cairndhu, operating from Channel Diver. They were assisted by a trawling vessel who heard the team were in the area and offered to help, using his fishing boat to haul the net on board. The fishermen are hoping to be able to repair and re-use the net depending on how badly it has been damaged whilst entangled in the wreck. If not, the net will be sent for recycling.

Trustee Christine Grosart said: “Today was a fantastic day! It was brilliant to have a trawling vessel offer assistance to our mission to get the net off the Cairndhu but to go on and win this award in the evening was the cherry on the cake.

Many people think we do this for a living but we don’t – we all have day jobs, families and normal lives to work around. It takes special individuals to give up what free time and cash they have spare to this cause and that is why they are so deserving of this award.

I was watching the awards from the middle of the Danish north sea on board a sat diving vessel and they could hear me shrieking from the Bridge!”

Chair Dr Richard Walker was also out on Channel Diver, photographing the day’s mission as it unfolded. He was travelling home when the winners were announced: “To actually win this award means more to me than you can imagine. It means that I can publicly thank all of our dedicated volunteers, who scuba dive to recover lost fishing nets from the reefs and shipwrecks around the United Kingdom and the huge contribution that our divers make in keeping the projects happening.

I can praise our instructors who teach our divers how to be safe and effective on our projects and show my appreciation to our committee who look after our administration, who send our message to the public, who make links with the fishing community and other groups.”

 Ghost Fishing UK this weekend is rolling out a new reporting system dedicated to fishermen and fishing vessels to be able to report lost fishing gear anonymously. The charity is very keen to work with the fishing community in harmony to help solve the problem of ghost fishing by getting accidentally lost gear out of the sea as soon as possible.

To report lost fishing gear, please head to the charity’s website: www.ghostfishing.co.uk/report

If you are a fisherman and know of any lost fishing gear, please report it anonymously here:

Ghost Fishing UK – Fishing Community Reporting Form

Richard Walker said “I want to thank each and every one of the Ghost Fishing UK team, and all of our supporters. They are all a key part of the job to reduce our dependence on plastics and preventing it from getting into our beautiful oceans.

And finally, a big thank you to the Surfers Against Sewage and the Plastic Free Awards for this prestigious award.”

For more information about Ghost Fishing UK visit their website by clicking here.

Header image: Richard Walker

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Marine Life & Conservation

Statement from Captain Paul Watson on his resignation from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (USA)

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It is with great relief that as of July 27th, 2022, I have ceased my employment and cut all ties with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (USA).

Since 1977, when I founded Sea Shepherd nearly a half century ago, I have dedicated my entire life to the aggressive and determined preservation and protection of biodiversity of marine life and our ocean.

Over the last few years, I have been slowly marginalized from the organization that I created in the USA. I was removed from the Board of Directors, my advice ignored, my close associates terminated and directors that supported me were removed. I was reduced to being a paid figurehead, denied the freedom to organize campaigns and the freedom to express the strong opinions that I have held for decades, opinions and campaigns that have shaped what Sea Shepherd has become and continues to be outside the borders of the United States.

As I said in the documentary movie Watson, my role is to rock the boat, to make waves, to provoke people to think about the damage we are collectively inflicting upon diversity and interdependence of life in the ocean.

The current Board seeks to turn our vessels away from confronting illegal poachers that prey on endangered species and instead seeks to turn our fleet into non-controversial research vessels. Research has always been a part of Sea Shepherd efforts, but it has not and should not be our priority. What we have provided is a unique function: a fearless leadership to intervene against poachers on the high seas, to document and to stop illegal acts that would otherwise go unnoticed and unchallenged. Sea Shepherd has always, and must always go where others fear to go, to say the things that must be said and to tackle the obstacles fearlessly and with great resolve.

The new direction that the present Board of Sea Shepherd USA has decided upon is not a path that I can in good conscience support nor participate in. I have not changed my objectives or resolve, and I refuse to change and adopt an approach that diminishes the incredible movement that we have created over the last four and a half decades, a movement that continues to grow outside the borders of the United States.

I remain a director of Sea Shepherd Global, and I remain a supporter of Global ships, officers, and crew. Together with all other national Sea Shepherd entities, with the exception of the USA, I will continue to support our campaigns around the world utilizing our unique philosophy of aggressive non-violence and cooperation with governments and NGOs.

We are Sea Shepherd. We are direct action motivated by imagination, persistence, and courage.

My future lies with the people from around the world who have made and continue to make Sea Shepherd the most influential, passionate, and effective marine conservation movement on this planet.

Captain Paul Watson

Founder – Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Canada (1977)

Founder – Sea Shepherd Conservation Society USA (1981)

 

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Marine Life & Conservation

Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean is back

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The Marine Conservation Society’s annual Great British Beach Clean is back, running from 16th – 25th September 2022.

The charity is calling for volunteers across the UK to join them at the coast for a week of beach cleaning and litter surveying.

The Great British Beach Clean, sponsored by Ireland’s number one soup brand, Cully & Sully, is more than just a clean up. Every year volunteers make note of the litter they collect, sharing the data with the Marine Conservation Society’s experts. The charity has used data collected to campaign for carrier bag charges, single-use plastic bans and deposit return schemes.

Last year, volunteers collected over 5 tonnes of litter, with an average of 3.85 items found for every metre of beach surveyed across the UK.

Clare Trotman, Beachwatch Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “We wouldn’t be able to do the work we do at the Marine Conservation Society without the support of our volunteers heading out to the coast to collect vital information on what’s polluting our seas.

“With beach cleans happening across the UK, from remote beaches to busy seaside resorts, there’s so many ways to get involved and support us this year. If you can’t make it to the beach, you can still take part by doing a local litter pick and survey where you live.”

At last year’s Great British Beach Clean, 75% of all litter collected was made from plastic and polystyrene.

From production to disposal, plastic has a direct impact on the ocean’s capacity to combat the climate crisis. Manufacturing plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Most plastic is produced using fossil fuels, meaning more plastic production results in increased carbon emissions. Plastic is also entering the food chain, from tiny phytoplankton to ocean giants, like whales.

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “Pollution, whether it’s big, small or even invisible, is having a hugely negative impact on our ocean and all those who rely on it – including us. Tiny microplastics are being eaten by plankton at the very foundation of ocean ecosystems, animals big and small are being tangled in plastic packaging, turtles are mistaking it for food, and chemical pollution is changing the ocean’s chemistry.

“All of this is an alarming picture of the state of our seas, but each and every volunteer who joins the Great British Beach Clean helps us research the scale of pollution in the UK. This research is vital to stop pollution at source, and we know it works. Cleaner beaches will support a healthy ocean, and a healthy planet.”

Cullen Allen (Aka Cully) from Cully & Sully said: “We’re delighted to be part of the Great British Beach Clean 2022. We’ve supported beach cleans in Ireland for the past 4 years and are excited about extending our commitments to the Great British Beach Clean. We’re excited to take part and get started, and of course spread the word on the importance of keeping our beaches and public spaces clean”.

Join the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean as an organiser, or volunteer, this year. Sign up via the charity’s website: www.mcsuk.org/greatbritishbeachclean.

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