Six hundred and forty thousand (640,000) tons of fishing gear are left or abandoned in the seas and oceans each year. They are called ‘ghost nets’ because they appear almost invisible underwater, killing millions of marine animals.
Healthy Seas was founded in 2013 to tackle the “ghost fishing” phenomenon, one of the biggest marine pollution problems of our time. Through cleanups with over 200 volunteer divers worldwide and by working with stakeholders of the fishing sector toward marine litter prevention, they have collected over 585 tons of waste nets and ensured they become a valuable resource. The Healthy Seas approach contributes toward a solution to ocean pollution, now and for the future. Regular sea cleanups are organised all year round in various European countries (North, Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas), in New Zealand and in Egypt (Red Sea) working closely with the Ghost Diving organisation of volunteer technical divers.
A prime example of sustainability at work
Marine litter knows no boundaries and is a growing global problem. Reducing it, is a key action for the achievement of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14, which calls to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. However, a significant number of disused fishing nets are not collected for treatment and, together with single-use plastic products, that poses a severe risk to marine ecosystems, biodiversity and human health. Through its projects, Healthy Seas aims at recovering and preventing marine litter while also making sure the fishing nets collected become new sustainable products, this way connecting marine conservation to circular economy.
One of the 3 founding partners of Healthy Seas, Italian company Aquafil, regenerates nylon fishing nets together with other nylon waste into ECONYL® yarn. Other types of plastics found in fishing nets are also reused or recycled by Healthy Seas partners. In their story, waste is not the end of a product’s life cycle, but the springboard for sustainable product design.
Since 2013, over 90 sustainable businesses have partnered with the organisation, by taking action and helping to fund sea cleanups, prevention and education activities. For Healthy Seas, collaboration is they key in order to move from problem to solution. However, in order for our way of life to truly become sustainable, legislation, education and eco -design are needed. Together with its partners, Healthy Seas advocates for clean seas and sustainability by showcasing its circular economy model. On September 22nd, 2019, the “Circular Economy Award” was bestowed on Healthy Seas at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards during Milan Fashion Week. The organisation is a best practice example for the circular economy, highlighting that waste is too valuable to be wasted.
DAN Europe + Healthy Seas: diving for ocean safety
DAN Europe participated on a special ghost net cleaning project, a collaboration between legendary underwater explorer Mario Arena and Healthy Seas, which took place in July in Lampedusa, Italy.
The diving safety Foundation was also present at the event held by Healthy Seas and Hyundai during their Sustainable Tour visit to The Netherlands.
The program included awareness talks for kids, followed by a beach clean-up. It was also possible to enjoy a Virtual Reality (VR) activity, in which you could feel as if you really were collecting the ghost nets with the volunteer divers.
Last but not least, DAN Europe SusTour team joined Healthy Seas on a real ghost net recovery mission in the North Sea. Their team spirit and focus on diving safety are as remarkable as the impact of their activity for ocean conservation.
Hyundai, supporting ocean conservation
Not only has Hyundai supported DAN Europe with an electric KONA for the Sustainable Tour, but also in April 2021 announced its partnership with Healthy Seas to ‘foster a sustainable future’. This partnership will allow Healthy Seas to expand its programmes all over Europe and more specifically in Greece, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and France.
Healthy Seas. Healthy Future.
Healthy Seas champions the three pillars of sustainability and strives to make a positive and long-lasting impact to the marine environment, through education and awareness-raising. Education is key when it comes to creating a sustainable and healthy future and that is why Healthy Seas focuses on teaching children and also adults about the devastating effects of ghost nets to the marine environment and biodiversity.
Healthy Seas’ marine protection work is threefold, focusing on prevention, cleanups and education that are all essential if we are to mitigate the ghost fishing phenomenon.
The organisation’s outreach activities also focus on educating about responsible and sustainable product alternatives to many fashion and interior purchases. Their goal for the next years is to reach more kids in Europe and beyond so they can become little ambassadors for healthy seas. Currently they are developing an innovative educational tool that will make it possible for the public to have “front row seats” at their diving projects and follow the journey of the recovered fishing nets into beautiful new products.
Cooperation with fishers for the prevention of ghost nets
At its core, the relationship between divers and fishers is key when it comes to the global fight against ghost gear. Without communication and cooperation, the cycle of dumping and retrieving is bottomless.
Healthy Seas fosters a link between the two groups in the countries where it operates helping to mitigate the ghost fishing phenomenon for the well being of local communities and the marine environment.
It is safe to say that most fishing gear ends up accidentally at sea. Nets can be caught on a rock or on any other object protruding from the sea bottom or carried away because of bad weather.
However, in 2019, during one of Healthy Seas‘ biggest projects in the Aeolian Islands, Italy, it became apparent that for decades the fishers were dumping their gear in the harbour, unaware of the environmental damage they were causing. Volunteer divers from the Ghost Diving organisation cleaned up the harbour together with the local fishers that helped them to lift the litter to the surface. This community action helped the locals to realise how big the problem is, making them Healthy Seas allies ever since.
Most importantly perhaps, Healthy Seas works with fishing communities to collect their waste nets before they end up in a landfill or even worse, the natural environment. Although they are members of one of the oldest professions in the world, fishers have a deep appreciation for innovation and for the products that are created with their “humble” old nets. Sustainable socks and swimwear are a powerful key to get fishers on board Healthy Seas!