Scuba Stories – Pascal Van Erp and Ghost Fishing
“The impossible missions are the only ones which succeed” ~ Jacques Yves Cousteau
‘Ghost Fishing’ is what fishing gear does when it has been lost, dumped or abandoned. Imagine a fishing net that gets snagged on a reef or a wreck and gets detached from the fishing vessel. Nets, long lines, fish traps or any man made contraptions designed to catch fish or marine organisms are considered capable of ghost fishing when unattended, and without anyone profiting from the catches, they are affecting already depleted commercial fish stocks. Caught fish die and in turn attract scavengers which will get caught in that same net, thus creating a vicious circle.
Lost fishing gear is among the greatest killers in our oceans, and not only because of their numbers. Literally hundreds of kilometers of nets and lines get lost every year and due to the nature of the materials used to produce these types of gear, they can and will keep fishing for multiple decades, possibly even for several centuries.
Pascal van Erp is a GUE trained technical diver with a strong preference for wreck diving. He made hundreds of dives all over the world, during these dives, he encountered lost- and abandoned fishing gear and the sad and severe consequences for the life under water.
In 2009 he worked on a big Dutch North Sea shipwreck clean-up project and he became driven by the removal of lost gear in the North Sea. Based on his experience and specific vision on diving operations related to environmental issues, Pascal decided in 2012 to dedicate his diving exclusively to environmental protection by starting the Ghost Fishing Foundation — an international non-profit executed by volunteer technical divers which initiates, supports and promotes lost fishing gear removal initiatives.
Since then, they run lost fishing gear survey and removal projects in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Caspian Sea, Pacific Ocean and Scapa Flow.
They often collaborate with other initiatives and organizations like Healthy Seas, Greenpeace and World Animal Protection supported by one of their rapidly expanding local Ghost Fishing Chapters in nearly every corner of the world.
“We dive to find and recover for lost fishing gear which means we visit popular touristic and fishing areas in mainly Europe. The most scary fact for me is to see we dive in deserts instead of rich marine environments, the big fishes are all gone and we often have dive without any fish seen in an hour. The world population is expanding rapidly and we have to reduce our fish consumption now to turn the tide, I hope it is still not too late..” – Pascal Van Erp
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Banner image courtesy of Ghost Fishing Greece / Areti Kominou