Fast forward, 23 years and diving has become a way of life, a way to be free and find inner peace and serenity.
Yet there’s a more compelling reason why Malagaris and his volunteer dive team are drawn to the dive sites of Greece.
“It is not uncommon to find discarded fishing gear during my dives,” he explains. “Lost lobster traps, pieces of fishing nets of full sized ghost nets. The ghost nets are often nearly invisible in the dim light and can be left tangled on a rocky reef or drifting in the open sea.”
Ghost gear is a term commonly used to describe fishing gear that has been lost or abandoned at sea. The gear continues to fish indiscriminately catching and entangling fish, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and all other marine creatures and birds. Sometimes with devastating consequences.
In the past seven months Malagaris has led efforts to remove three ghost nets and various other lost or abandoned fishing items, the nets spanning anywhere between 50 to 80 meters in length.
Malagaris adds, “The site we dive is quite dynamic with shifting sand covering and revealing debris all the time. Strong winds bring more debris. Many of the fish we see are already dead. If any creatures, like crabs, are still alive, we’ll carefully release them underwater in shallower depth.”
Removing any net from beneath the ocean requires skill and experience. Malagaris keeps his team of experienced divers to just three or four to help ensure the removal effort is coordinated and safety is paramount.
Last year, Malagaris joined Project AWARE’s Adopt A Dive Site, choosing Kokkari dive site, a site he has dived for over ten years. “I want to keep it clean from plastics and safe for the marine life, divers and my two children. I feel it’s like my backyard. I want my backyard clean and safe for all,” says Malagaris.
Adds Malagaris, “That’s why I support Project AWARE. I am part of global network of like-minded divers that gives back to the sea and their communities.”