Ghost Fishing

Peter Verhoog/ Dutch Shark Society

Peter Verhoog/ Dutch Shark Society

The problem

Derelict fishing gear has had a noticeable impact on the marine environment and is frequently found by divers in many different locations ranging from ship wrecks and rocky outcrops to sandy seabeds. There are many divers all over the world who release hundreds of crabs, lobsters, fish and marine mammals from derelict fishing nets and lines every year. Each group of divers develops their own techniques and approaches and there is much to learn from each other. Creating a global network of divers who collaborate to remove ghost fishing gear and share knowledge and skills was seen as a beneficial step to address the problem, as well as raise the profile of the ghost fishing issue.

The solution

Ghost Fishing is a non-profit organisation made up of divers who initiate and participate in ghost fishing projects around the world. Their mission statement, "we believe in collaboration, we cannot solve this problem on our own", is well reflected in their wide ranging partnerships around the globe. They have established a global network of divers who work together to remove ghost fishing gear and share knowledge/skills.

We believe in collaboration, we cannot solve this problem on our own.

The organisation focuses on the following key areas:

  • Physically removing ghost gear and other marine debris.

  • Investigating and documenting local situations.

  • Ensuring diver safety.

  • Recycling marine debris.

  • Sharing knowledge and best practice.

  • Education and presentation.

The outcomes

The Ghost Fishing dive team has supported a number of projects including:

  • Healthy Seas initiative: Ghost Fishing assists with salvaging lost and discarded fishing gear from Dutch North Sea wrecks and supplies recovered nets to Healthy Seas for recycling.

  • Project Argo: Ghost Fishing and Krnica Dive in Croatia stripped the bow of the wreck MS Argo of heavy trawler nets and other lost fishing gear.

  • Infidel Clean Up: Ghost Fishing, in partnership with Los Angeles Underwater Explorers (LAUE) and San Diego Underwater Explorers (SDUE), have been working to clean up abandoned commercial fishing gear from various sites with the Infidel squid fishing boat wreck the most recent.

The lessons

Collaboration and knowledge sharing have been fundamental to building the capacity of dive groups around the world to participate in ghost gear removals. Partnerships have been key to ensuring dive groups have the necessary technical expertise and training to enhance outcomes and ensure safety during their clean ups.

Key contacts 

Pascal van Erp

Founder/ Diver

Participant Projectpb+j