About two weeks ago an extraordinary effort was made to clean the Portuguese reefs from fishing nets called “Ghost Nets”. These nets come loose and drift off or get dumped by fishing boats, and then settles on the bottom killing the reef underneath. This is about the effort and commitment that can help change that.

Recovering the Portuguese Reefs

This expedition took place on the 1st of May,2018.  The team involved 38 individuals who voluntarily participated in the recovery of these lost ghost nets and abandoned fishing devices and also 9 boats that include 2 professional fishing boats, the ISN national coast rescue and national marine authorities with the marine forensic diver’s team involved as well.

The operation began earlier in the morning. At 09:30 AM the first group of divers went into the water and reached 30-meter depth. The visibility at the bottom was good which was helpful since the first group of divers managed to easily identify the collected materials, fix the recovery cables, and inflate the safety buoys to the surface, this in order to signal the cables on surface. After diving for 30 minutes with EAN 32, the first group of divers returned to the surface to be picked up by “Sanafir”. After a while, the professional fishing boats “Noroeste” and “Sudoeste” started collecting the signal cables and through them pulling the ghost nets from the deep bottom onto the boats. With the operation done in the first spot, it was the time to move the boats, crew, and divers to the 2nd location half a mile South from the initial point.

We arrived around 11:00 AM to the second location and then a new group of divers repeated the exact same operational procedures observed in the 1st immersion in the initial location. Around 01:00 PM all the abandoned materials were collected by the professional fishing boats and upon completion, the “voluntary fleet” retreated to the Setubal harbor.

Paralenz diving into action

We used The Paralenz Dive Camera in many of our different research dives and we were able to record a great the amount of footage of lost coves and fishing nets. Moreover, the camera also logs each dive with relevant data such as time, depth and temperature which comes very handy when providing as much evidence as possible to local authorities and the community in general. Awareness is the key to a successful call to action, we believe in collective engagement between public and private entities, and in this way, we will promote effective measures to prevent these events in the future and thus reinforce a sustainable fishing approach around these marine ecosystems which almost the entire local community depends on.

As expected, all the wreckage and sea debris were taken to the boats to be later recycled on land. By 2:30 pm we concluded this voluntary expedition with the team fully satisfied and about 1 Ton of ghost nets and lost fishing devices recovered from the sea.

At the end of the day, we felt so committed to the cause and promised to repeat the same operation soon and embark on a new voluntary ghost nets recovery. We want to acknowledge Paralenz for their active participation and involvement and for helping us throughout this important cause and we hope to keep working together towards conservation and cleaning up the oceans.

Diver Spotlight: Joāo Branco

João was born in 1969 in Setúbal, a fishing town on the Atlantic coast in Portugal. His fascination for the underwater world came at an early age and people like Hans Hass, Jacques Cousteau, and Sylvia Earle had a major influence in his life. Over the last decades, João serves as a recreational diver after completing different diving courses and received multiple certifications from entities such as FPAS, CMAS, and PADI. In 2006, João also pursued a specialization in survey and preservation of underwater findings at Portugal national central of underwater nautical archaeology – CNANS.

João’s initiative was born out of the need to make the local community aware of the negative impact of these ghost nets found in the sea. Several of them have been fishing away in silence for decades, trapping marine life and endangering their existence, putting a strain on the marine ecosystems. Along with other divers, João has been identifying places across the Troia Atlantic west coastline to document the effects on the ocean ecosystems and the growing pressure due to the quantity of abandoned or lost fishing nets. The main objective is to disclose all the ongoing threat around these ghost nets so that the competent authorities can assess the situation and establish effective solutions for the future sustainability of these sites.


Want to check out more stories from the dive community, join the Paralenz World Facebook Group


If you are involved in any conservation and research projects we would love to hear about them and discuss how Paralenz can help you and your team – Please leave a sponsorship request and we will be in touch.