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Save the seas - Interview with Ghostfishing diver Pascal van Erp


In this exciting interview with Pascal van Erp - Founder of the Ghost Fishing Foundation - you can get the full scope of the mission and tasks of the funding programme, as well as on the vital operations carried out by volunteer marine conservationists, which can be quite hazardous.

Healthy Seas works together with volunteer divers of the Ghost Fishing Foundation in Europe to recover the mountains of fishing nets that have been lost in the seas and oceans and to save as many marine animals as possible. The work divers do is very difficult and dangerous as they often have to go on dives with bad visibility conditions, for example in the North Sea. A group of divers is able to recover 300 kg of ghost nets within a day. Pascal van Erp, a Ghost Fishing diver and the Diving Coordinator for Healthy Seas, will explain how such rescue process exactly works.

How did you come to HEALTHY SEAS? Where did he come from? Motivation to volunteer to salvage the nets – the work is time consuming and dangerous.
Since many years our team has been diving at shipwrecks. It is most often at those diving spots that fishing gear gets caught and subsequently lost by fishermen. Our team took the initiative to organize clean up dives together with other like-minded divers and this got the attention of the founders of the Healthy Seas initiative who offered to take the recovered fishing nets from us and do something useful with them. The removal of nets is a high precision job and not without danger, therefore we only operate with a well-trained team. Each member knows each other very well and everyone follows very strict technical diving standards and procedures to ensure maximum safety.

How do you know where nets are? 
Unfortunately, this is very easy to answer: Nets are found on any underwater object. This could be a wreck, stone or reef of huge amount of rubbish. Fishing gear can get stuck and lost at anything projecting from the sandy sea bottom.


Where do you dive and how often? What does a dive look like? Who belongs to the team? 
We dive all over Europe and every weekend if the weather conditions allow it. For example, a regular North Sea dive in our own country (the Netherlands) means two dives a day exactly at slack water (changing tides). The interval between slack water is 6 hours. We dive with a team of 6-12 divers who are all trained and operating the same way so we can respond fast to any issue that may arise underwater.


Salvage includes the rescue of animals. Which experience is particularly remembered?
In terms of rescuing animals, there is not one single instance that sticks to mind. What I have observed is that no single animal is safe from ghost fishing gear. Unfortunately, we find any kind of fish entangled in nets, as well as sharks, dolphins, seals and also less common animals like octopuses, starfish or even sea cucumbers. We have seen it all and it is very worrying.

What motivates you to continue working? 
Ghost fishing is a huge problem which is only getting bigger every day. It is estimated that 640,000 tons of fishing gear is lost or abandoned in the seas and oceans each year. Every time we dive we encounter new lost fishing gear. As a team, we are trying our best to solve this problem by taking action and exposing the problem for the eyes of the public as much as we can.

Short biography
Pascal is a GUE trained technical diver with a strong preference for wreck diving. He made hundreds of dives all over the world. During these dives, he encountered lost- and abandoned fishing gear and the sad and severe consequences for life under water. Since he co-founded the first Dutch North Sea cleanup project in 2009, he became driven by the removal of lost gear in the North Sea. Based on his experience and specific vision on diving operations related to environmental issues, Pascal decided in 2012 to dedicate his diving exclusively to environmental protection and started the Ghost Fishing Foundation – an international non-profit executed by volunteer technical divers which initiates, supports and promotes lost fishing gear removal initiatives.