Last evening’s talk was both depressing and inspirational. Rob Wilson, president of Ghost Fishing NZ, (seen on the right next to Rob Wilson) described the activities of this entirely voluntary organisation, which tries to clean up the seabed.
Originally the focus was on lost or discarded fishing gear - nets, longlines, fish traps and the like. These things, now made mainly of synthetic and rot-proof materials, can continue to catch and kill fish and other marine life for years- hence the name ghost fishing.
Ghost Fishing is part of an international network which removes this harmful stuff and disposes of it. Volunteer scuba divers and free-divers do the work, usually on ‘clean-up days’ assisted by others onshore.
Wellington Harbour is also a dumping ground for other kinds of harmful rubbish, in incredible variety. Supermarket trolleys, scooters, traffic cones, bottles and so on litter the seabed. They affect the sediment and starve it of oxygen, harming fish stocks.
Sometimes, however, it is better to leave rubbish in place rather than disturb the habitat any further. The divers have developed criteria for making these decisions.
Ghost Fishing enjoys strong recognition and support from the community: it was judged ‘Wellingtonian of the Year’ in 2017. Sadly, despite their efforts to educate people out of using the sea as a rubbish dump, it seems their work will go on forever.