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09-06-2021

Ghost Diving and H2O Drones clean it up together!

Written by Karst Beens

Gear in the sea: Ghost Diving and H2O Drones clean it up together

H2O Drones is now a proud sponsor of the Ghost Diving charity. This is a foundation dedicated to cleaning up the sea. They fish fishing gear out of the water in, among others, the North Sea, but also all over the world.

Chairman Pascal van Erp has been in the business for a long time. “We are actually a group of divers who have been active in the North Sea since 2007/2009, for example to fish fishing gear out of the water. That escalated a little, because more and more people joined in. Then we transformed into a foundation and we keep growing. We now have about 50 divers and a core team.”

Giant pollution in the North Sea

Van Erp explains that their goal is not something you can avoid. At the bottom of the North Sea, there are a lot of shipwrecks with polluting fishing gear. “Really an incredible amount. Around ten thousand.” There was a lot of fishing in the North Sea in the 1950s and, due to various mistakes, the bottom was contaminated with fishing gear. For example, it goes overboard or is left behind. “It’s so full of gear there, it’s almost impossible to describe. The problem is the material of the fishing gear. There are some studies that describe the sustainability of fishing gear, but it takes so long for it to break down that those studies are more suggestions than facts. That’s where we came from.”

Ghost Diving is particularly active in the North Sea and in the Mediterranean Sea. “If we have to go far away for an operation, we immediately turn it into a week-long project. For example, when we had to recover a net from a fish farm in Italy. We had to lift this gigantic three-ton net from 35 metres. In the end, we succeeded with six divers.”

Aggressive fishermen

The problem is so big that the foundation is doing everything it can to combat it. Sometimes, however, they are thwarted by fisheries. “They don’t want it to get out that it’s so dirty. Sometimes there is even some aggression when we are working. The fishermen just want to work at any cost. In Belgium, people didn’t want to work with us because they got threats from fisheries if they did.”

Ghost Diving also works with environmental organisations such as Greenpeace. From Europe to South Africa, they have helped with jobs. “Busy we are, unfortunately. I have just returned from Egypt and will soon be leaving for Greece. When fishing, a boat loses fishing gear. If you consider how much fishing takes place in the world, you can imagine how much pollution is caused by this gear.”

New teammate: underwater drone
Some time ago, Ghost Diving was approached by Deep Trekker about using an underwater drone. “They sent a drone to us that we worked with briefly for a while,” says Ghost Diving’s director. Karst Beens, director of H2O Drones, saw this pass by and became interested in the foundation. “He then called us later that he wanted to enter into a sponsorship.” H2O Drones is based in the Netherlands and not in Canada, like Deep Trekker. For Van Erp, this is a big advantage for the cooperation. “It saves for us in communication and location. We needed someone with a lot of expertise and understanding of the water world and Karst has more than proved that. He has already gone with us a couple of times, together with the drone. Those were very successful days. It was very useful that he was with us, because we knew nothing about the drone. After such a day we were convinced that H2O Drones had to be our partner in crime.”

H2O Drones ensures progress

Van Erp emphasises that knowledge about drones and the underwater world is very important to their foundation. “The help we get from H2O Drones is very valuable to us. They offer the right support and have the right knowledge. When we use it in our environment, we get a lot of positive reactions and notice the curiosity about the underwater drones.”

According to Ghost Diving, the drones are ideal for the continuity of the work. In some places in the North Sea, it is sometimes too dangerous to dive or divers are not allowed to dive at all. A drone is then ideal for inspecting the underwater environment. “The divers are often in danger underwater, because water is unpredictable.” A drone can keep an eye on the divers or even do some of the diver’s work if the conditions are too risky to dive. “It also saves a lot of money and a lot of time, because we don’t have to send a whole team underwater, for example. A drone can watch everything and ensure safety. Even in murky water, because they are equipped with sonar.”