“Ghost Fishing” is a global conservation initiative aimed at removing derelict fishing gear that continues to harm, trap and kill aquatic life. This organization was founded by two GUE divers in the Netherlands; and there are now several Ghost Fishing initiatives all over the world. Using GUE-trained divers, Ghost Fishing is recognized as a GUE Affiliate.
In southern California, we (Los Angeles Underwater Explorers, LAUE and San Diego Underwater Explorers, SDUE) have been working on cleaning up abandoned commercial fishing gear from various sites. We have had several projects over the last 2 years, with “The Infidel” being our current focus. Other initiatives have included the High Seas wreck (tuna net), the African Queen wreck (mixed gill nets), the platform at Old Marine Land (squid net), and the Coronados Islands (ghost pots and other debris).
The Infidel was a squid fishing boat that sank off the east end of Catalina in 2006. On that day, the purse seiner net was so heavy with squid that instead of pulling the net onto the boat- the net pulled the boat into the ocean. This story has been told several times, and I believe this closely represents what happened: A purse seiner net is worth thousands of US dollars, so it seemed like a good idea to try to salvage the net. The net was retrieved, however when the insurance company was informed of what it would cost to get the net back, they opted to cut the net free and file a claim instead. The net fell back onto the wreck, covering it like huge black curtains of death. Several clean-up attempts have already been made with other groups. It has also been rumored that a second net was caught on the wreck.
Since this is a technical dive (150 feet or 50 meters), it limits who can be involved in the clean-up efforts. As the project coordinator, I am recruiting GUE divers with a minimum of Tech 1 certification. Divers must be comfortable running line, using lift bags, working in silted-out conditions, and dealing with heavy current. We are actually very lucky to have a pool of GUE divers in Los Angeles and San Diego that meet these requirements!
LAUE/ SDUE is genuinely interested in making this wreck a safe habitat for marine life. At this depth, the wreck would be a perfect home for large ling cods, cabezons, plumose anemones, and wolf eels. This net has already claimed countless lives- including sea lions, crabs, fish, and cormorants (southern California sea birds). We are deeply committed to this initiative, and will continue to return to the site until all of the nets are gone!
If you are interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to LAUE, or in working with us on a research project, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or Heather Hamza at email@example.com.
On a final note, I would like to mention that it is the demand for seafood which fuels the problem of ghost nets. Every single person who stops eating seafood DOES make a difference. Pass it on!