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My Greatest Fear This Halloween

Ghost Gear dress
Ocean News

Linda Thomas Eco Design created this dress from 1000s of metres of ghost fishing line and net rescued by the Fathoms Free dive team (including Natalia the model). But what is Ghost line, and how did it find its way into this dress?

Scuba Diving around Komodo (Indonesia) I first encountered Ghost gear, a piece of almost invisible net stalking through the ocean. This was Ghost gear; defined as lost/discarded fishing gear including nets, line, rope, pots, and floats. As a scuba diver, getting entangled in this deadly stuff terrifies me.

Three years after that dive I am now in a position where I can do something about plastic pollution in our ocean. This gear indiscriminately catches fish and animals; it depletes commercial fish stocks; kills whales, seabirds, and turtles; and reduces populations of endangered species. Studies estimate that more than 90% of species caught in Ghost Gear are of commercial value – contributing towards a significant loss of revenue for fishermen.

 Underwater litter pick with Fathoms Free Divers at Lansallos
Underwater litter pick with Fathoms Free Divers at Lansallos

The main causes for Ghost Gear is severe weather where gear has to be abandoned for safety reasons, snagging on rocks and reefs, entanglement with other gear, and lines being cut loose incidentally by other marine traffic crossing over the top of it. Through talking with volunteers, academics, and local fishermen, I know that it’s not the fault of any one group of people. But rather we need to work together to improve recycling infrastructure for our maritime trades. This means a circular economy for the equipment used, and port reception facilities for plastic waste at all of our docks and ports.

The Dress

Fishing net was also donated by Odyssey Innovation to make this dress; a grassroots business established by Rob Thompson to create circular economy solutions to the problems of ghost gear and marine plastic. Rob Thompson said:

Odyssey Innovation works within most SW harbours to recycle end-of-life nets from fishermen. The nets are then turned into kayaks which are used to recover marine plastic and ghost gear from inaccessible parts of our coastlines. This infrastructure is vital for responsible disposal of old nets and ghost gear recovered through routine fishing operation. The fishing industry has supported the recovery and recycling of 32 tons of nets through the Odyssey Innovation Net Regeneration scheme in the past three months.

At the Environment Agency, we want to work more closely with the fishing community and listen to their ideas on recovering plastic waste including broken fishing gear whilst at sea. By working collaboratively we believe we can improve the amount of waste plastic recovered which has the benefit of protecting valuable fish stocks. As such we are delighted to be supporting Fathoms Free and Dr Linda Thomas in telling the story of plastic. Dr Linda Thomas on why she made the Ghost net Dress:

Last year when doing a beach clean in Cornwall with my family I found an enormous piece of ghost net. It was very heavy to haul off the beach but the bright colour immediately made me think of making another ocean plastic dress. On many 2 minute beach cleans I spend hours trying to untangle ghost line, rope and net from rocks, often incredibly close to known seal or bird colonies. This ghost gear is such an important cause of both plastic pollution and of devastation in our seas and I am passionate about us actually talking about and dealing with the problem.

ghost gearWhat do you think? 

How do we stop Ghost Gear from haunting our waters for centuries to come?

A few months ago I had the idea to start the conversation during Halloween. These are the people that made this happen. Thank you!

@LindaEcoDesign for all her hard work in making the dress, @OdysseyInnovate & @FathomsFree for materials, Caroline Bond for the Crown @ghostnetgoods, Photography by @frasermarchbankimages, Hair by Clair Swinscoe @CSwinscoeHair, Eco Make Up by @RebeccaRoseMUA

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