A team of volunteer divers has cleared seven WWI shipwrecks of ‘ghost gear’ on Scapa Flow.

The four year project involved marine scientists from Heriot-Watt University and World Animal Protection, and was led by Ghost Fishing UK.

The remains of the scuttled German fleet are now safer and cleaner for both divers and marine life.

Dr Joanne Porter, Associate Professor at Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Island Technology, said: “The data that has been collated over the last four years will allow fisheries scientists to build a model to allow understanding of the component of the fishery which is lost due to ghost fishing.

“No fishers want to lose their gear, so by removing lost items from the wrecks and the marine habitat we are resolving the issues of lost catch, damage to wildlife, safety to divers and also the long-term legacy of plastics getting into the food chain as the items start to break down. This has to be a win win for all concerned.”

Ghost gear – otherwise known as lost or abandoned fishing equipment – poses a huge threat to marine animals, with 640,000 tonnes of it left in our oceans each year. It is estimated that it can last for up to 600 years, causing harm by snagging on underwater rocks and wrecks.

Ghost Fishing UK was created to help remove lost equipment from the marine environment, which is often entwined in reefs and wrecks.

Divers Clear WWI Shipwrecks of Ghost Gear on Scapa Flow
Image © Ghost Fishing UK

 

‘Its divers, working from two vessels, scoured and surveyed the wrecks of Scapa Flow including the battleships Markgraf, Kronprinz Wilhelm and König, light cruisers Coln and Karlsruhe, and destroyer SMS V-83,’ according to Heriot-Watt University.

The university and the Ghost fishing team collaborated over the course of a week to offer ‘ an evening of talks and the opportunity to ask questions via live feed at Stromness Town Hall.’

Dr Richard Walker, Associate Professor of Diving Science at Heriot Watt University, said: “The 2018 project has reached a significant milestone. We are delighted to announce that the scuttled WWI high seas fleet are now clear of any actively fishing ghost gear. The health of the ocean has caught the public’s attention and the outlook often looks bleak. We hope that this is the first in a long line of positive improvements to the marine environment.”

Main Image © Marcus Rose / Ghost Fishing UK

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