Scuba divers with the Ocean Protection Alliance have removed nearly all of an enormous “ghost net” off the coast of Southern California. The net had been killing sea lions, dolphins, sharks, and fish since a trawler sunk in 2006, as evidenced by the bones and carcasses on the ocean floor.
“Once you start cutting, visibility drops from 30 feet to zero because the water clouds up with particles and tiny creatures that get shaken loose,” said Cinde MacGugan, who led a team of divers to remove 200-sq-ft of netting. “At one point, I was frantically cutting off pieces of netting when one or more was tugged upward by an air bag.”
Due to the depth of the mission, the divers filled their tanks with a nitrous oxide mix in order to spend more time on the ocean floor cutting at the net. Without the nitrous, the divers would surely suffer decompression sickness.
While the group has removed over 800 square-feet of the net, it could take up to nine days to remove it in its entirety. The net is made of hemp and polypropylene and would stay intact for over 1,000 years if not removed.
“Worldwide, there are many thousands of derelict killer nets like this one, abandoned and adrift in the in the seas,” said marine biologist William Cooper, who was onboard the ship yesterday. “In one case, abandoned fishing gear in Puget Sound was studied for 10 years. An estimated 30,000 marine mammals, fish and birds were killed each year in it.”
Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons under public domain