Sea Shepherd: eleven ghost nets in just four weeks destroyed!

Campaign start a complete success: eleven ghost nets in just four weeks

A Sea Shepherd report

The BALTIC SEA CAMPAIGN 2021 started with great success.

During the first four weeks of the campaign on Fehmarn and Rügen (which are among the largest islands in Germany), eleven ghost nets with a salvage weight of more than 900 kilograms and hundreds of fishing lures were recovered from the Baltic Sea. These nets, fish hooks and lines will no longer kill marine animals.

The team spent the first two weeks of the campaign on the island of Fehmarn.

Patrols were carried out almost every day to locate possible ghost nets and finally to lift them. Because even though ghost nets are obviously causing massive damage, finding them and removing them from the ocean is a major challenge.

It takes a lot of preparation, the use of technical equipment and ultimately perseverance as well as great efforts on the part of the crew to eliminate such death traps.

With combined forces, the net is pulled on board. Photo: Robert May / Sea Shepherd

More than 200 kilograms of ghost net

The largest ghost network on Fehmarn was recovered in the lake area in the direction of Puttgarden (District of the island of Fehmarn)
On June 14th, volunteers aboard the EMANUEL BRONNER examined some gillnets that had been deployed in the area.
Gillnets are often used near wrecks to catch cod that find shelter there.

With the help of the underwater robot and a structure scan, the area was examined more closely and various wrecks found.
So the diving team decided to do an exploration dive.
At a depth of 24 meters, the team discovered a massive trawl net about 40 meters long that had become entangled in a wreck.
There were many dead marine animals in the net, including cod in particular, but also starfish and crabs.
What was particularly treacherous about this net were the torn openings through which more and more fish got into the net.
But not all marine animals found their way out again.
“The net was like a prison under water,” explained mission diver Antonia Kirner (Sea Shepherd Germany) after her exploratory dive.

After the site was comprehensively documented using video recordings, the diving team returned on deck.
The recordings were evaluated that evening and a plan of action prepared for the next day.

The diving team gets ready for the next dive. Photo: Robert May / Sea Shepherd

The rescue operation started in the early morning of June 15.
Reinforcements from the SDA (Scientific Diving Association) arrived for the mission, so our team was supported by Hubert De Pinto Kraus and Hanna Nordström.

During the first dive, two lifting bags were attached to the net. The air-filled lift bags are used to lift heavy ghost nets to the surface of the water.
This process requires the utmost concentration on the part of everyone involved.

The Baltic Sea is not one of the most pleasant diving areas on earth. Visibility is often very poor and at a depth of 24 meters the water temperature is around 9 degrees, a strenuous task even for people with diving experience.
Therefore, every dive is planned in advance and all work steps are discussed in the team in order to keep the risk as low as possible for everyone involved.

The first dive ended after about 35 minutes.
The team managed to lift a section and prepare it for recovery. Unfortunately, a steel cable, the so-called curling line, blocked the buoyancy of the net.
So a second diving team got ready to cut the curl line.
Thanks to the great effort and the use of a hacksaw, the steel cable could be cut after about 20 minutes.

We were able to release this cod into the wild. Photo: Robert May / Sea Shepherd

In the third dive, the team finally managed to recover the ghost net.
For this purpose, an additional lifting bag was installed and the power pack was raised.
Another part of the net was so strongly connected to the wreck and the seabed that the two divers had to cut all lines and connectors by hand.
Extreme caution was required during this step.
On the one hand, sharp tools were used and, on the other hand, the net was already under high tension due to the lifting bags.
The divers had to be careful not to get caught in lines or injure themselves with the cutting tools.
At this point in time, visibility was also extremely limited; the turbulent sediment darkened the water and completely stole the divers view.
As soon as the net was completely detached, the upwelling forces became so strong that the net rose to the surface of the water at high speed.
The divers found their way back up via the safety line and completed the last dive of the day with great success.
Now the deck hands were challenged!

With combined forces, the old trawl was pulled on board piece by piece.
The net was studded with hundreds of fishing lures and dead marine animals. The net was checked meter by meter and dead animals were cut out. We were able to save the lives of a few animals, but our help came too late for most of the fish, starfish and crabs.

But thanks to the tireless efforts of our volunteers, this network will no longer kill marine animals in the future. Never again!

With the BALTIC SEA CAMPAIGN 2021 we are making an active contribution to reducing marine pollution.
Millions of old fishing nets are drifting through the seas around the world; in the Baltic Sea alone, up to 10,000 network parts are lost every year.

It takes centuries for the material to finally decompose into microplastics. That is how long the nets are deadly to countless sea creatures.

In the first four weeks of the campaign, we were able to make a successful contribution and remove several hundred kilograms of ghost nets from the Baltic Sea.

But there is still a lot to be done. Our mission continues.
Furthermore, the crew of the EMANUEL BRONNER is on duty off Rügen to track down further death traps.

And I mean...It is a great pleasure to hear something positive about our oceans and their inhabitants.
But even greater joy is given to us by the brave and tireless animal rights activists from Sea Shepeard.
Joy and hope.
We thank them from the bottom of our hearts

My best regards to all, Venus

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