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Kate Westaway Photography is proud to promote the work of The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and Sea Shepherd UK.


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Every year around 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear such as lines, nets and pots is lost or discarded into the oceans and this already shocking figure is increasing. These discarded nets, lines and other fishing industry gear becomes known as ‘Ghost gear’ because of its ability to continue killing wildlife long after the fishing boats have left it behind.

Around the UK this lost and discarded fishing gear is the second largest source of marine debris with over 1250 kilometres of nets alone being lost in UK waters each year.

Over 150,00 seals and cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are estimated to be killed annually by lost fishing gear along with thousands of sea birds, turtles and sharks.


As part of a wider effort by Sea Shepherd to combat the issue of discarded fishing gear, Sea Shepherd UK launched its Ghostnet Campaign in January 2018 to concentrate on known problem areas around UK coastal waters but in 2020 our campaign is going global with our divers already being deployed to the waters of Bahrain.

The Ghostnet campaign utilises highly experienced volunteer divers and Sea Shepherd UK’s fast boats to survey UK waters looking for discarded fishing gear (DFG) and recover it for safe disposal or recycling. The divers are deployed to a potential or reported ghostgear site on one of Sea Shepherd UKʼs four Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) where underwater 3D scanners pinpoint wrecks and sites to dive. Our crew look for wrecks located particularly near intensive netting and creel fishing areas as the equipment often becomes snagged on wrecks and rocks and we check nearby areas as the water currents move the ghostgear along the sea bed to other underwater features where it may become entangled.

The divers will survey the wreck to ensure that the net or pot can be removed safely and that it hasnʼt been down there so long as to have actually formed a habitat for marine life. Enormous care is taken not to damage the wrecks and we work in conjunction with the UKʼs Maritime Management Organisations (MMO), Natural England and Historic England who have approved our method statements and we obtain official permits whenever applicable.

Nets, lines and discarded creels are brought to the surface using lift bags which are attached to the ghost gear and then inflated to carefully lift them to the surface.



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The WDC are running a campaign called GOODBYE BYCATCH. 


The fishing industry employs many types of capture techniques, including vast walls of netting; fishing lines up to 100km long, baited with thousands of hooks; and thousands of rope lines connected to traps on the ocean floor. Together these may create potentially deadly labyrinths through which a whale or dolphin must navigate.

Whales and dolphins breathe air, so when they get tangled up in a net, rope or fishing line it can be a race against time to reach the surface or to escape. In their desperation to escape and avoid suffocation, or in getting tangled in gear, some tear muscles, break teeth, and sheer off fins. The more they struggle, the more entangled they can become.


WDC was amongst the first to identify and detail the welfare impacts of fishing gear on individual porpoises, dolphins and whales.

Reducing the risk of entanglements in the US - WDC’s helped to reduce the number of vertical (buoy) lines along the east coast, reducing the risk of entanglement to large whales.

Reducing deaths of harbour porpoise in the US - as a member of the Harbour Porpoise Take Reduction Team, WDC helped significantly reduce bycatch in gillnets, by requiring the use of ‘pingers,’ that alert porpoises to the nets.

New Zealand - WDC produced an App for collecting sightings data on endangered Hector’s and critically endangered Maui dolphins in New Zealand. They are declining due to bycatch in static gear and trawls. The data is helping us identify the areas needed to protect them.

After years of campaigning by WDC, in 2020 the New Zealand Government announced the extension of protection for Māui dolphins on the West Coast of the North Island; the ban on set nets at the top of the South Island; and the expansion of protections on the East Coast of the South Island.

EU – WDC has highlighted technical flaws and identified required improvements in current bycatch laws. We are lobbying to influence new measures being developed by the European Parliament and the European Council.

UK – Our campaign led to the UK Bycatch Focus Group and a commitment from the Fisheries Minister to develop a UK wide bycatch strategy.

Scotland – WDC initiated a collaborative project aimed at understanding the number of whales and other marine life entangled in fishing ropes in Scottish waters.



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