This month World Animal Protection UK were out with volunteer environmental divers helping to remove lost fishing equipment (aka ghost gear) from the sea off the Pembrokeshire coast. Ghost gear is a massive issue for marine animals, with an eye-widening 640,000 tonnes of lost lobster pots, fishing nets and rope being lost in our oceans every single year. This equipment continues to catch marine animals, and is detrimentally affecting thousands of British species.
The Leatherback turtle, for example, is the most common species found in British waters, and its global status is critically endangered. When it migrates to British waters from July to October to feed on jellyfish, they often get caught in discarded rope. Young playful seals find themselves caught in fishing net with tragic consequences. Even whales can be entangled and killed by ghost gear.
Thankfully these sterling humans are on the case. The diving group, brilliantly named the Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners (NARC), headed out in tempestuous waters as they have been doing for the past 11 years, to do the noble and necessary job of sub-aquatic litter-picking to protect species such as the yellow sponge crab, the bottlenose dolphin, the Ballan wrasse fish and the grey seal that live in the Pembrokeshire seas. Last year they recovered one tonne of ghost gear, and this year managed to collect 19 lobster pots as well as rope and angling gear. World Animal Protection’s Campaign Manager Christina Dixon joined the team for a day, and reported back: “It’s always an honour to be part of a gear removal mission and play a small role in helping this dedicated group of sea heroes.”
Luckily, thanks to the continued work of NARC and the World Animal Protection UK Sea Change campaign, this issue is being brought to the fore. This charity is working with the industry and with the UK government to develop initiatives to recover ghost gear from our waters and support partners working on hands-on animal rescue.
To support World Animal Protection UK’s Sea Change campaign, sign up to their mailing list to get the latest news, and read their summary of the ghost gear issue. For more information on spotting and reporting ghost gear, check out World Animal Protection’s guide. Plus, like them on Facebook and Twitter to keep in the loop with updates to the campaign.
Images courtesy of World Animal Protection UK.