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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.

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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.


Book Review: “We are the Ocean,” by Captain Paul Watson




An illustrated journey to teach kids about the importance of water. 

By Amanda White

When you read with children, they are connecting the words you say to the pictures on the page and to the things they see and do in their world.  That seems pretty obvious, but a lot of parents don’t make the connection that the stories you choose to read to your kids can have a great impact on your child’s outlook of the world and themselves. 

So, for us underwater lovers and environmentalists, books that cover these topics are key to teaching our children how important it is to protect and love the planet we call home and the creatures that live here. Storytelling is a powerful way to not only encourage your child’s imagination and further their education, but it is also a great way to shape the way they will go out and care for the planet and the beings on it.

Such books covering topics related to environmentalism and protecting the ocean are growing within the children’s book industry. One such book that was released this year is “We Are the Ocean” by Captain Paul Watson who founded the activist organization Sea Shepherd, whose mission is to protect and conserve the world’s oceans. 

In his book Captain Watson explores the connection between water and all living things. He takes a poetic stance toward describing how water sustains life and the continuous cycle through which it goes through all animals and plants. He explains this very simply for kids to understand the concept on the most basic level. 

With beautiful illustrations by Sarah Borg that depict the adventure of two children and their dog friends, your child will learn about the importance of water and our direct relationship with it. The book teaches kids that water is in the cells of all plants and animals, including their own bodies. It even explains that readers drink water that was “once within the body of dinosaurs”. The book does a great job of sharing the concept that the ocean is a part of all of us and even has a Sea Shepherd boat in the illustrations. The hope is to instill young readers with a love for the ocean and a passion to take care of it as they grow older.  It rings true of Captain Paul Watson’s most infamous quote, “If the oceans die, we die”.

“We are the Ocean” is great for kids who are just learning to read, as it is written for kids ages 3-5 years old who are in preschool or kindergarten. This book would be a great addition to your child’s reading list and would make an excellent holiday gift for the ocean-loving kids in your life. You can find We are the Ocean online and in stores at Barnes and Noble, on Amazon, and in the Paul Watson Shop.

A Bit About Captain Paul Watson

Named by Time magazine as one of the “Top 20 Environmental Heroes of the 20th Century,” Captain Paul Watson, has been fighting for our planet for over 60 years.  For years he worked on freighters and deep sea vessels and it was because of this, as well as his participation in a  demonstration at the U.S. and Canadian border, that he and several others created Greenpeace. Watson and the group were demonstrating against nuclear testing on Amchitka Island in the Aleutians. He continued his activism, and in 1977, he founded Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, whose mission is to be “a global movement to defend, protect and conserve life and diversity in the ocean.” Today it truly is a global movement with chapters in over 40 countries and is one of the few organizations that is actively protecting wildlife. Their current campaigns are, “Saving the Vaquita”, “Preventing IUU Fishing”, “Protecting Wild Salmon”, “Beaked Whale Research”, “Protecting Sea Turtles” and “Ocean Cleanup”

Dive Deeper

Read more about Capt. Paul Watson and other stories by Amanda

InDEPTH: Can We Save Our Planet? What About Ourselves? Interview With Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson by Amanda White

InDEPTH: Where have all the young divers gone? Meet Rob Thomas and Young Divers International by Amanda White

Amanda White was one the minds behind InDEPTH when it first began, through her work as Marketing Director at Global Underwater Explorers. 

Her main passion in life is protecting the environment. Whether that means working to minimize her own footprint or working on a broader scale to protect wildlife, the oceans, and other bodies of water.  Amanda holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, with an emphasis in Strategic Communications from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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