Scuba training for removal of ALDFG in Ilhabela, Brazil

The first training event for divers to detect and remove abandoned, lost and otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) took place on 16th May in Ilhabela, São Paulo State.

This is an initiative of GGGI member, the Lost Fishing Gear Project, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) and Ilhabela Yacht Club (IYC).

The event was opened early in the morning by Ignacio Mattos (IBAMA) and Julio Cardoso (IYC) and a presentation on the Lost Fishing Gear Project was given by Marine Biologist Julia Alves (Fisheries Institute of São Paulo State). Following this, divers were briefed on the dive spot including safety precautions to take during the removal. 

The Lost Fishing Gear Project team mapped the dive site around IYC piers using side scan sonar 455 kHz to analyse the seabed for anomalies i.e. marine litter and lost fishing gear. Following this operation the dive removal for ALDFG and other marine litter commenced led by Cesar, an instructor of the International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers (IANTD) and Felipe from Sea Shepherd.

18 advanced divers participated in the event and surveys were carried out at depths of up to 7m with very low visibility (<1m). In total, 220lb (100kg) of marine litter were removed, including many items of fishing gear. 161,46ft² (15m²) of purse seine nets, in addition to fishing traps, 2 octopus pots, anchors, polyamide monofilament, fishing hooks, pieces of trawl cod-end, polyethylene and polypropylene mooring ropes, and other litter such as wood, tyre tractors, tarpaulins and a car battery were removed. 

The removal of such a large amount of ALDFG was unexpected, however the yacht club is near the fishing port where fishing nets and other gear is repaired with old pieces of gear frequently discarded. 

After the removal, the organisations and volunteers congregated to receive certificates of participation, view side scan sonar images and feed back about the event to improve future operations.

The event’s aims were fully achieved - educating and interacting with people in the fields of diving, marine biology and marine environmental protection to tackle the problem of ghost fishing. It is wonderful that so many people attended and were interested in this globally relevant issue. 

Many organisations and volunteers participated in this event, including  IBAMA, Chico Mendes Biodiversity Conservation Institute (ICMBio), Sea Shepherd, Brazilian Navy, Grouping Fire, Marine Biology Center at the University of São Paulo (CEBIMAR), postgraduate students of  Campinas State University (UNICAMP) and Federal University of ABC (UFABC), DAN secure, National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers (IANTD), Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and IYC employees.