Surveys by wreck divers around the island of Norderney showed pollution from fishing activity was affecting the ecosystem of the German North Sea, so three of the many shipwrecks in the area were revisited during September and cleared of 300kg of ghost fishing nets.
The Healthy Seas organisation has been collaborating with volunteers from Ghost Diving in several countries in Europe since 2013 to clear ghost fishing nets from reefs and wrecks. With the German chapter of the volunteer organisation recently established, it was time to expand these challenging sea clean-up operations to Germany.
“It is estimated that 640,000 tons of fishing gear are lost or abandoned annually in the world’s seas and oceans leading to the suffering and death of millions of marine animals. To help mitigate this pollution, during 13-16 September, we descended to 20-25m to remove 300kg of fishing nets covering the wrecks of the MV Änne Ursula, the Vorpostenboot 812 and the SS Elsa near Norderney,” said Kai Wallasch, Co-ordinator Ghost Diving Germany.
Divers observed plentiful sealife including squid and shark eggs attached on the nets around the wrecks and were able to release several animals from them, such as starfish, North Sea crab, butterfish, velvet crab and common spider crab. The days were exciting on the surface as well, with multiple sightings of grey seals around the diving boat, but also of a harbour porpoise.
“The enthusiasm and commitment of the team was fantastic! In spite of the challenging weather and high waves, we were able to dive for three consecutive days, which is very uncommon for this part of the world,” said Derk Remmers, Co-ordinator Ghost Diving Germany.
The three-day clean-up project was also made possible thanks to the Group Gezeitentaucher, that identified and surveyed the wrecks in the past years, and Hyundai Motor Europe, which announced its partnership with Healthy Seas back in April. They are providing funding for the implementation of Healthy Seas clean-up and education activities. Actor and Hyundai Motor Germany’s brand ambassador Lenn Kudrjawizki also joined the clean-up in Norderney to provide surface support to the team and help with animal releases. The next event in Germany will take place in October on the island of Sylt.
Healthy Seas is a best practice example for circular economy and will ensure that the recovered nets will become a new resource. The nylon parts will be regenerated by Aquafil, together with other nylon waste, into ECONYL yarn, the basis for new sustainable products such as swimwear, activewear, socks and carpets.