During an eight-day expedition that wrapped up on June 29th, volunteer divers from five countries removed ghost gear from ships sunken during WWII in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy’s Lampedusa Island, and Tunisia.
Healthy Seas teamed up with Ghost Diving and SDSS for a third consecutive year, bridging environmental and historical conservation, with the support of Hyundai Motor Europe that is providing funding for the implementation of Healthy Seas cleanup and education activities around the world since 2021.
“Wrecks provide excellent habitats for marine life, acting as a reef and providing shelter. At the same time, it is on wrecks that fishing nets get most often snagged. It is estimated that 640,000 tons of fishing gear are lost or abandoned annually in the world’s seas and oceans leading to the suffering and death of millions of marine animals,” says Pascal van Erp, Healthy Seas deputy director and Ghost Diving founder.
The team focused on one particular shipwreck that has yet to be identified. A ship sunken during the Battle of Convoys, still containing several aerial bombs and vehicles. By recovering a huge net, weighing approximately 700 kgs, divers unveiled its structure making it a safer space for marine life but also more accessible for other divers. After examining the material and structure of the net, it is believed that it originated in Egypt. It will be upcycled into new nets.
This mission also aimed at documenting various wrecks as cultural monuments. By collecting over 12,000 photos and applying photogrammetric techniques, 3D virtual models are created to make the wrecks accessible to scientists and the wider public. SDSS Founder, Mario Arena: “Since 2007 when our team began exploring the wrecks at this location, we are continuously running into fishing nets. The collaboration with Healthy Seas and Ghost Diving is allowing us to make progress in our historical discoveries.”
The team was made up of Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) technical divers from Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece and Lebanon with thousands of dives in their resumes. Due to the limited space on board, they used so-called rebreathers to reduce the number of tanks, and increase safety during these long and deep dives.
“Due to the remoteness of the location dived, as well as the sparse supplies on board, we consider this to be our most unique project. We look forward to returning again next year to continue protecting the environment and the wondrous submerged historical wrecks found in this part of the Mediterranean,” said Pascal van Erp.
Healthy Seas is a non-profit organisation with a mission to remove waste from the seas, in particular fishing nets, and ensure marine litter will become a valuable resource. Nylon fishing nets are regenerated into ECONYL® yarn, a high-quality raw material used to create new products, such as socks, swimwear, sportswear or carpets, while other types of plastic nets are also reused, becoming jewelry, accessories or provided for research and education purposes. Since its founding in 2013, Healthy Seas has collected over 905 tons of fishing nets and other marine litter with the help of volunteer divers and fishers.
Ghost Diving is an international non-profit organization of volunteer technical divers specialized in the removal of lost fishing gear and other marine debris since 2009. To this day, the Ghost Diving team has carried out diving projects independently or in collaboration with several international environmental and/or diving organizations like: Healthy Seas Foundation, Greenpeace, WWF, Global Ghost Gear Initiative and Global Underwater Explorers.
SDSS is an international non profit organization founded in 1999 and based in Italy.
Their mission is the study, research, enhancement, dissemination and protection of the historical, cultural, biological and environmental submerged heritage. Their main activity consists of the documentation, with different systems and methodologies of submerged sites such as historical wrecks, archeological sites, peculiar underwater habitats and sites of concerns for environmental instability, in collaboration with researchers and institutions.
Communications Manager, Healthy Seas
+306974992349 (available also on WhatsApp)
Gilboa Quarry Installs First Underwater Freshwater Farm in the US
by Stephen Luchon
Gilboa Quarry in Ottawa, Ohio, is considered one of the premier Midwest dive locations. Offering spring-fed clear waters, an impressive marine life population, and numerous underwater attractions to explore, Gilboa has long been revered among scuba divers since opening over 30 years ago. Part of Gilboa’s appeal is its variety for divers of all levels. Boasting depths ranging from 10-43 m/30-140 ft, Gilboa Quarry provides ideal conditions for both novice and technical divers looking to develop their skills further.
Adding to its impressive feature list, Gilboa recently achieved a US milestone partnering with underwater technology innovators OCEANREEF to bring its “Nemo’s Garden” technology and experience to Ohio. In 2012, OCEANREEF pioneered Nemo’s Garden to grow plants underwater in transparent “biospheres.” After achieving considerable success with this technology in Italy and beyond, Gilboa Quarry installed the first fresh and cold water Nemo’s Garden biosphere in the United States. Installed approximately 2.4 m/8 ft below the water, the Nemo’s Garden biosphere benefits from significant sunlight, easy access for marine farmers, and has already become a beloved and much talked about and photographed attraction at Gilboa.
Working closely with OCEANREEF, Gilboa Quarry is working to provide visitors with exclusive tours through Nemo’s Garden, immersing visitors in an underwater world where herbs such as basil and a variety of microgreens and produce thrive beneath the surface in a controlled and heavily monitored environment.
Visitors participating in the guided tours will experience various exciting activities including:
• Use of specialized diving equipment: With specially tailored diving gear designed to complement the aquatic biosphere environment, guests will fully immerse themselves in an extraordinary underwater adventure.
• Tending to the Plants: Tour participants will gain hands-on experience caring for aquatic plants, exploring all of its intricacies.
• Scientific Studies: Guests will document plant growth and participate in scientific studies that increase their knowledge of underwater ecosystems and sustainability.
• Underwater Photo Ops: Thanks to underwater FaceTime access through WIFI, visitors can capture unforgettable moments in this captivating environment.
• Live Stream Feature: Nemo’s Gardens @Gilboa Quarry will showcase some of its most breathtaking moments during tours, enabling visitors to share their unforgettable experience with others via various social media platforms and websites.
Ocean Reef’s innovative approach to underwater biospheres combined with Gilboa Quarry’s breathtaking natural beauty and bountiful marine life provides an unmatched, immersive scuba experience for aquatic enthusiasts seeking adventure, wonder, and a better understanding of the underwater world. With Nemo’s Gardens previously predominately installed in warm salt water, Nemo’s Garden @ Gilboa Quarry stands as an important milestone in underwater farming research as the technology tackles a new environment. Gilboa looks forward to welcoming visitors from across the globe who wish to witness how nature meets innovation in such stunning fashion.
Stephen Luchon, a 38-year-old web developer and graphic artist from Pittsburgh, PA, enriches the scuba community with his technical expertise and artistic flair. He is also the IT Director at Gilboa Quarry in Ottawa, Ohio. An avid CCR Mixed Gas Diluent Diver with a passion for deep wreck exploration, Stephen shares his adventures and knowledge on his YouTube, Dive Current, inspiring fellow adventure-seekers worldwide.