The Healthy Seas initiative on Tuesday announced the conclusion of a cleanup operation off the small fishing village of Stratoni in northern Greece, where divers removed the last two tons of “ghost nets” on the seabed.
Stratoni’s waters are notable for their rich biodiversity, including two seahorse species found in the Mediterranean: “Hippocampus hippocampus” and “Hippocampus guttulatus.” These species are listed by the IUCN as “ Near Threatened” and they are vulnerable to entanglement in nets, as well as habitat loss.
The operation was launched last year, when a diving team removed over one ton out of an estimated three tons of the ghost nets, and a team of four Dutch and six Greek divers returned this year for the rest.
The recovery mission was carried out in collaboration with diving teams from Ghost Fishing Greece, Ghost Fishing Netherlands, AquaTec and UFR, as well as Northern Greece Underwater Explorers, with valuable support given from the local community.
The three-day event also featured an educational program held on Saturday, which organizers said was perhaps the highlight of the initiative. The program brought children and their parents in the remote community down to the harbor to meet and greet the divers and see for themselves just how massive ghost nets can be.
Elina Samara, a marine biologist from the newly-established Hippocampus Marine Institute also joined the dives. She explained “We spotted an impressive list of species, including the protected marine mammal Delphinus delphis, the rough skate Raja radula, the pillow coral Cladocora caespitosa and the gastropod Tonna galea.
“The removal of the nets will allow marine life to recolonize its lost habitat, and will not pose any future entangling threats to the marine species inhabiting the area,” she noted.
The recovered fishing nets will now begin their amazing journey “from waste to wear.” First, they will be transported to Diopas S.A., a partner of Healthy Seas in northern Greece, then on to Norwegian company Nofir A.S for cleaning and sorting. The nets will then be transported to Aquafil’s plant in Slovenia where, together with other nylon waste, they will be regenerated into ECONYL ® yarn, an infinitely-recyclable fabric.
This will provide the basis for beautiful new products including socks, sportswear, swimwear, and even carpets. Healthy Seas is an excellent example of an organization within the circular economy, where waste is seen as a resource.
This was the first of four main events Healthy Seas will carry out during 2019 to protect the marine environment through ghost net cleanups and raising public awareness, besides their regular activities organized throughout the year.
Healthy Seas’ next event will be held at the Aeolian Islands in Italy from June 3-8.