09 Oct 2018

Divers remove monster ghost fishing nets from Italian waters

  • 4000kg of discarded fishing nets recovered from Italian waters by Healthy Seas initiative with Ghost Fishing volunteer divers
  • Ghost fishing nets account for 10% of the total plastic waste in our seas
  • Textile manufacturer Aquafil transforms collected oceanic and landfill waste into sustainable textiles
  • Gucci, Richard Malone and Adidas among hundreds of other brands who use the fabric

Between 6-8th October in deep waters off the coast of the Aeolian Islands, volunteer technical divers rescued more than 4 tons (4,000 kg) of ghost fishing gear, which will be sent to AquafilSLO in Ljubljana.
The fishing nets will be cleaned and combined with other nylon waste materials, before being transformed into ECONYL® regenerated nylon, the infinitely recyclable material featured within collections by Richard Malone, Gucci and more.

During the mission, Ghost Fishing divers recovered their largest ever net and its removal took days of preparational dives to ensure its careful removal from a sea-bed, after being lost in a storm 10 years ago.

Healthy Seas, the initiative behind the ghost fishing gear recovery mission in collaboration with the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund, Blue Marine Foundation and the Ghost Fishing Foundation, brought together Lipari Diving and La Gorgonia Diving Centre, local fishermen and authorities with Aquafil’s president Giulio Bonazzi, on boats to remove ghost fishing gear from various locations, home to some of Europe’s endangered marine species. It was a true cooperation between divers and the fishermen who provided their boat for the net recovery and helped safely pull the enormous nets to the surface. The fishermen hoped their involvement would help raise awareness within the fishing community about the problem of ghost nets.

At the harbour, students from the local primary school IC Lipari 1 and secondary school IC Santa Lucia had the opportunity to meet the divers and learn more about marine litter and the circular economy. Aquafil exclusively sponsored the event.

According to a UNEP and FAO report, 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets are left in the seas and oceans each year. Endangered bottlenose dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles, sperm whales, and dusky groupers, have been found entangled in nets near the Aeolian Islands and in the Tyrrhenian Sea, suffering unnecessarily and in many cases eventually dying.

Giulio Bonazzi, President and CEO, Aquafil: “The Healthy Seas initiative promotes marine protection and reduces ocean debris, while procuring the materials needed to create ECONYL® regenerated nylon for more responsible textiles for the fashion and carpet industry. And yet, this is a scheme that looks beyond ‘cleaning up’ and recycling; it moves towards a closed loop design and a new, more sustainable system”.

The ghost net removal mission, organised by Healthy Seas in cooperation with the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund, Blue Marine Foundation and Ghost Fishing Foundation, aims to contribute to raise awareness and responsibility to the local community towards the protection of the marine environment in the long term.

Veronika Mikos, Project Coordinator, Healthy Seas explains, “Our team is passionate about marine conservation and thanks to their hard work, and the support of our partners, we have been able to make significant strides towards marine conversation within European waters. Our ultimate goal is to stop fishing nets from ending up in these marine ecosystems in the first place. By engaging with local coastal communities, and stakeholders within the fishing industry, we hope to prevent marine littering and raise awareness of this global problem. If we do not take urgent action now, we risk losing biodiverse marine environments and the future of our oceans”.

The Healthy Seas initiative has been operating for five years in the UK, Italy, Greece, Netherlands, and Belgium. During this time, in cooperation with volunteer divers and fishermen, the initiative has collected 375 tons of fishing nets from the seas and from land, the equivalent in weight of 2 blue whales.