LOS ANGELES - They are aptly called Ghost Divers, as they seem to appear in our view 150 feet underwater, coming out of the darkness of the deep. Their mission is to cut loose "ghost nets" — large nets from fishing boats, which end up entangled in shipwrecks.
Every year, about 640 tons of nets end up like this, continuing to do what they were designed to do — trap and kill marine life. First, it’s the fish, then come the crabs trying to eat the fish, followed sometimes by dolphins or sea lions, even birds.
We followed the team GhostDivingUSA as they complete a mission at a wreck sunk off the coast of San Pedro for a movie in 1933. Untangling and recovering the nets is difficult and dangerous. One of the team's members almost died when her equipment got caught in one of the nets, as it quickly surfaced after it was cut loose. It’s technical, dangerous diving, but the divers are committed and constantly training to make the process safer. Still, when you are talking about gnarled messes of nylon nets, wrapped hundreds of feet below the surface, they can’t discount the dangers — dangers they're willing to take because as one person told us, "if the ocean dies, humans will die."
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The organization behind Ghost Diving has teams around the world getting nets, but their work doesn’t stop there. The recovered nets are sent to partners, like Aquafil in Orange County, which recycles the nylon into material that can be used to make things like carpets, jewelry, clothing and more. Hannah McDermott, beachwear designer at another Southern California company Santos Swim is also a partner of healthy seas, fulfilling her mission to create purpose-driven, eco-conscious products.
The first U.S. chapter of Ghost Diving is now operating in Southern California, but more are expected. Their next step is to convince state officials to implement what other states, like Washington, have: mandates requiring fishing vessels to report lost nets, immediately. That way, there is a log of locations they can retrieve them from, quickly - killing less marine life and making their retrieval much safer.