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Why We Ghost Dive

Photographer, conservationist and founder of Ghost Diving New Zealand (GDNZ), Rob Wilson explains why he and his team have dedicated themselves to marine debris cleanup. “It’s not just something we do as ghost divers, it’s a daily choice and way of life,” he explained. The story features his 10-minute film, “Fight for the Future,” a culmination of some ten years’ of work on debris removal, which won 8th place in’s 2020/2021 film contest.



Text by Rob Wilson. Header image, “removing debris” courtesy of R. Wilson

Well, of all the questions I am asked the most here in New Zealand,  

“Why do you do it?” is pretty much the top one. I mean why…? Why  dedicate countless hours to the betterment of our oceans?

To quote our recent Global Underwater Explorers TV (GUEtv) video entry, which features over 10 years of dedication to this cause, “For us,the answer is obvious,” and to us, it is especially obvious, as we see it first hand.

As a team and as a community, we do it for the creatures that have no voice, they who have no means to exclaim their outrage at the damage we humans have done and continue to do so to this world we call Earth.

We also do it for the future generations. We as divers and conservationists want the children of our future to see some of the wonders of the underwater world in the way that we can now.

One of our primary team members and GDNZ committee members, Andrew Stewart, said one of the most profound and accurate statements  to me at our last meeting, when he said,  “Rob, if they know it’s there, they care…”

And that’s one of the reasons I decided this was something to write about for this GUE update – showcasing by images –  some of the incredible creatures we encounter. 

Ghost Diving NZ’s has always utilised the GUE trident with its three pronged focus: Education, Exploration, & Conservation. Our team here, however, doesn’t focus only on nets; we attack marine debris in every form it takes. And, that ranges from currently recovered 76 e-Scooters in our inner harbor to redundant lobster pots on offshore reefs that were swept away in the storms that batter our southern coastline.

The GDNZ team here has worked even with local law enforcement and special forces when we located live, unexploded ordnance while diving near an old military base—much to their surprise—not once but twice!

Wilson’s video won 8th place in 2021/22’s photo/video competition

Also, when we talk about Education, we are talking about showing people the amazing creatures our waters hold within their watery grasp, which we document by video and photography weekly. It is my intention to educate, raise awareness, and generate interest in these creatures in ways other than the typical hunter-gatherer mentality.

Exploration is the primary way  we locate redundant lost gear and marine debris, as our teams scour depth contours on scooter, always on the lookout for nets or pots or anything that doesn’t belong. Then, of course, one of the facets of Conservation is removing these items that pollute or create artificial reefs prone to house invasive species. Conservation, for us, is not just something we do as Ghost Divers but is a daily choice and a way of life.

One of the most humbling experiences I had recently was gliding up to a Rough Skate in total darkness and finding it foul hooked by a fisher person and dragging a line that had become entwined on a rock and covered in weed. The creature, desperate and exhausted, allowed me to cut away the line.

Then, much to my surprise,  upon starting to engage with this Skate in the darkness, another much larger Skate glided out of the dark and came to rest beside me as I hovered in the gloom.

The sense of symbiosis when doing this type of work with living animals is hard to describe. After I freed the creature,  both slowly slid back onto the cool uncaring harbor darkness. I like to think that those creatures, in whatever capacity, knew that we cared. 

Additional resources

TEDx Wellington: Ghost Fishing:Conservation, Education & Exploration | Rob & Dr. Serena Wilson & Cox

Website: Ghost Diving New Zealand

InDepth: Dumpster Diving New Zealand Style by Rob Wilson

InDepth: Contest Winners

GUE.TV: Fight for the Future by Rob Wilson

Rob Wilson, one of the youngest scuba divers to certify in New Zealand at age 13, is a photographer by trade (specializing in astro and landscapes) and founder of Ghost Diving NZ (GDNZ), the NZ chapter of the international volunteer organisation Ghost Diving that regularly removes tons of rubbish from the nation’s waters. Rob got involved with cleanup dives in 2010 and has never looked back since. “That first time, I got such a rush out of knowing the 25 plastic bottles I removed wouldn’t be able to harm sea life.” He has been participating in and managing cleanup dives ever since.


Rock & Water

Sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor evokes the sacred, populating underwater seascapes with corporeal objets d’art, meant to be assimilated by the sea.




Text, photography and art courtesy of Jason deCaires Taylor.

Crossing the Rubicon, Museo Atlántico, Lanzarote, Spain, Atlantic Ocean

“Museums are places of conservation, education, and about protecting something sacred. We need to assign those same values to our oceans.”

Nexus, Oslo Fjord, Norway
Museo Subacuático de Arte, Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Mexico
Museo Subacuático de Arte, Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Mexico

As soon as we sink them, they belong to the sea.

The Rising Tide, River Thames, Vauxhall, London

“The Rising Tide was located within sight of the Houses of Parliament. The politician on a petroleum horse was an obvious metaphor for how fossil fuel companies are embedded into our politician system. I think we really have to start holding people accountable for what they are doing. And that needs to be documented in stone rather than in a few words in a newspaper column that disappears. There are a lot of people whose actions need to be immortalised.”

The Raft of Lampedusa, Museo Atlántico, Lanzarote, Spain, Atlantic Ocean
Museo Subacuático de Arte, Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Mexico
Nexus, Oslo Fjord, Norway
The Coral Greenhouse, John Brewer Reef, Australia, Pacific Ocean
The Silent Evolution, Museo Subacuático de Arte, Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Mexico

“It is named a museum for a simple reason. Every day we dredge, pollute and overfish our oceans, while museums are places of preservation, of conservation, and of education. They are places where we keep objects that have great value to us. Our oceans are sacred.”

Check out for a lot more amazing work!

Jason deCaires Taylor MRSS is an award winning sculptor, environmentalist and professional underwater photographer. For the past 16 years, Taylor has been creating underwater museums and sculpture parks beneath the waves, submerging over 1,100 living artworks throughout the world’s oceans and seas. Themes explored by these artistic installations include, among others, the climate emergency, environmental activism, and the regenerative attributes of nature. The sculptures create a habitat for marine life whilst illustrating humanity’s fragility and its relationship with the marine world. Taylor’s subjects mainly feature members of the local community, focussing on their connections with their own coastal environments.

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