Ghost Fishing, a well-known charity, is officially rebranding itself as Ghost Diving to make it easier for the public to understand what it does. In 2012, Pascal van Erp founded the Ghost Fishing organization, a non-profit that works with volunteer divers around the world to carry out environmental diving projects. Since its founding, they have managed to bring the ghost fishing problem into the public spotlight, through key international collaborations, breathtaking underwater photography and impressive results.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Ghost fishing is what fishing gear does when it has been lost, dumped or abandoned in the seas and oceans. It is estimated that 640,000 tons of fishing gear gets lost or abandoned in the seas and oceans each year. (UNEP/FAO, 2009). The issue was first brought to the attention of the world at the 16th Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries, in April 1985.
“Now that the problem is identified and well known, it’s time to focus on the solution. We-van Erp.
decided to rebrand our organization and bring the divers on center stage, as they are the
ones who recover the lost fishing gear, once it has been lost in the seas and oceans. They
deserve recognition for their truly heroic efforts”
Ghost Diving will keep some elements of the old logo, so fans of the volunteer chapters
throughout the world should not notice too much of a difference. The logo also includes the
tagline ‘Global Mission’, aiming at reinforcing their extrovert attitude. “Our goal is that in
only a matter of time our new name will become a generic term for all divers working to
remove ghost gear from wrecks, reefs or the seabed” says van Erp.
This change comes at a time when ghost gear has been identified as the biggest plastic
polluter in ocean.ii The Ghost Diving teams around the world are trained to combat this
pollution whether it’s found on shallow reefs or great depths. The name might have changed but the mission and core values of Ghost Diving stay the same.
For more information:
Pascal van Erp
Founder & Chairman, Ghost Diving
Phone: +31 6 27 88 88 83
Remembering Bret Gilliam
by John Bantin. Photos courtesy of Bret Gilliam unless noted.
Bret Gilliam (1951-2023) was one of the true pioneers of scuba diving. He worked for the U.S. Navy before moving to St. Croix and becoming a dive shop owner. In the Caribbean, he later ran liveaboard dive boats, including the 550-foot Ocean Quest, the largest such vessel ever dedicated to diving. He started Fathoms magazine with Fred Garth, to which he brought both his writing and underwater photography skills. He ran Uwatec in the USA before it was bought by Scubapro. In 1972, he created a consulting company, Ocean Tech and, over the years, he appeared as a diving and maritime litigation consultant and expert witness, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in almost equal numbers. He set the record for the deepest dive on air (475 feet in 1993) and founded the technical diving training agency TDI. A frequent contributor to Undercurrent, he will be sorely missed. If you ever met Bret, well, you know he was larger than life.
When I first met Bret, I disliked him intensely. My British friend Rob Palmer, a self-effacing gentleman, had invited me to the Bahamas for the launch of the Draeger semi-closed circuit rebreather, and I found myself in the company of a group of American loud-mouthed technical diving pioneers, each competing with the other to hold the floor, with Bret’s booming voice dominating. Bret could be a bit of a bully, and I noticed he would pick away at any perceived weakness of character or physique.
It was later, at the TDI (Middle East) conference, when Rob Palmer, my roommate, went missing, having been last seen at 400 feet in the Red Sea and still descending, that Bret and I bonded in our mutual grief and a shared total lack of understanding as to why it had happened.
When we boarded the charter flight back to the UK, Bret dryly observed that he usually traveled in business class. I opined that I’d be happy if I didn’t have to sit next to a fat bastard. It was at that point Bret realized he’d met a soulmate.
Before I visited him at his home in Maine for the first time, he sent me over eighty photographs of his properties. I retorted I was coming to see him, and I didn’t really need the realty sales pitch. To his dismay, I turned up with my wife and two young children. He discovered, to his delight, that none of my family would take any shit either, and they hit it off quite well. My view is that if you can give it, you’ve gotta be able to take it, too. Bret had a similar philosophy.
Meeting him by chance, diving in PNG, for example, bystanders were amazed at the way we insulted each other by way of greeting. In spite of that, Bret was a stalwart and loyal friend who was quick to insert himself into any confrontation his friends found themselves in. His technical witness work in litigation cases and extensive knowledge of diving meant that opposing lawyers competed to get him into their camp. As one judge was heard to say, “I know Mr Gilliam. He’s never started a fight but I’ve seen him win a few.”
Bret was generous to a fault. Never one to shy away from picking up the tab, he once invited me to join him on an all expenses paid (by him) musical pub crawl in Ireland. We found ourselves on a tour bus with a number of ready victims from America. We laughed all the way. More recently, he invited me to do the same thing again and to join him and friends on a trip to the Grand Tetons. Alas, I was not able to make it. As always, all expenses were covered. He used to regularly invite a great gathering of notables (and me) to dinner while at the DEMA show, all on him.
Because I was tall, thin, and English, and in those earlier days wore my hair in a ponytail, he likened me to Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. He even had a framed photo on his wall of the drummer and some people questioned why he displayed a photo of me. I always signed my emails to him, ‘Mick’.
If you stayed in his home, you were careful not to over-do the cookies and you made sure to replace the drip cup under the coffee machine.
John Bantin was an advertising photographer and television commercials director during the ’70s and ’80s. He learned to dive in 1979, and in 1992 made it his career. He was technical editor for Diver Magazine, Britain’s most popular diving magazine for 25 years until he retired but then became senior editor at Undercurrent.org.