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  • Christine Grosart

Conger Conger

A conger in a pickle. Image: Christine Grosart/Ghost Fishing UK

I've been trying to get to grips with some scientific names for various marine critters. They tend to be formed from genus, species and sometimes order and class.

The easiest one to remember is 'Conger Conger'. Not very imaginative and I guess, in a class of it's own.

This one in Lyme Regis, Dorset was in a cage of it's own.

It had got itself trapped in a large, lost fishing pot, doubtless looking for an easy meal. A spider crab cowered nervously in the corner and the eel was stuck fast through the netting, unable to go forward or back with no chance of escape.

Conger living in the heroine

The charity Ghost Fishing UK had been tipped off about two lost pots which had got their lines tangled up in an old diving shot line and subsequently snapped off, abandoning them on the seabed.

Now, both the shot line and the lost pots were threatening unwitting wildlife.

As part of a 5-day marathon effort by the charity and its volunteers, not aided by Covid-19 restrictions and ever changing legislation, a team of 6 divers set out from Lyme Regis to dive the Heroine. Consisting mainly of brick cargo and conger eels, this fairly flat wreck had snagged both a shot line and string of pots, the latter laying hopelessly on the seabed just next to the wreck.

I was on the camera again, using my new Canon 100D and Ikelite housing set up, with Ikelite strobes and snapped some shots of Andy Rath collecting up the old shot rope, made mostly from polyprop. Floating neutrally buoyant, it was a very real hazard for divers, cetaceans and boat propellers alike.

Once removed, the pots eluded us until the other team jumped in to join us. It wasn’t long before we found a large, lost cage just off the wreck and stuck fast, a resident conger eel.

The pots had been there an estimated week or so. The conger wasn’t in bad condition and his cellmate, a nervous spider crab, cowered in the corner, trying hard not to be his next lunch.

I got in close and set about the camera.

Bit of a fail... Image: Christine Grosart/Ghost Fishing UK

Scuba divers are the eyes of the ocean and without underwater images and video, the public remains completely unaware of what is going on beneath the waves. How can anyone care about something they cannot even see or simply just don’t know about?

Satisfied with my images, Fred gave me an OK question signal to which I replied ‘OK’ I was done.

I did not expect what happened next, as Fred immediately opened the lid of the cage!

I screamed through my regulator, climbed over Andy leaving him confused and dishevelled and hid well out of the way, expecting the conger to sense freedom and set about immediately biting me.

Fred releases the conger. Image Christine Grosart/Ghost Fishing UK

Of course, nothing of the sort happened. Fred spent the next 5 minutes trying everything he could to get the conger out of the cage.

He tipped it on its side, shook it about, cut away some of the net which the conger was ensnared in and even tried to remove it by its tail. He wouldn’t budge.

Eventually, after more persuasion the conger slipped slowly and unceremoniously out of the cage and swam nonchalantly off along the sand to head back to his lair in the piles of bricks.

The grateful spider crab also made a break for it at a significantly quicker pace and the team set about raising the pots to the surface.

The pots were returned to their owners in an attempt to work up relationships with the local fishing community. Without their trust, we will not be able to get information where fishing gear has been lost and won’t stand a hope of recovering it before it does untold, wasteful damage.

For more information on what Ghost Fishing UK does, check out one of our more recent articles and our website:

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