• Christine Grosart

Ghosts of Kernow

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

I love Cornwall. Who doesn’t?!

St Michael's Mount, Marazion. Image: Christine Grosart

With a huge fishing community and the Ghost Fishing UK treasurer now residing there, it was a no-brainer to run our annual Ghost Fishing UK project out of Falmouth.

We booked 3 different boats over 6 days and lined up some public outreach events to capture the hearts of the holiday makers.

We kicked off at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary It was apt, as the SeaLife Trust were keen to fund our project and they also owned the seal sanctuary.

I was fortunate to interview Maz, one of the animal care team and she was explicit about how ghost gear affected and even killed many of the animals brought to the sanctuary's attention.

Christine makes the final cut on a huge mass of ghost nets on the Epsilon wreck, Cornwall.

Working closely with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, a handful of seals and pups each year would arrive at the sanctuary with horrific wounds from ghost gear which would remain the same size, caught around a limb or neck, while the seal continued to grow, causing awful deep lacerations.

We dived every day and I took a few days off diving to organise a social event where we invited every conservation and wildlife outfit in Cornwall to meet us, dine and drink with us and to introduce ourselves properly.

We were very warmly welcomed and everybody who came were amazed at how much ghost gear we had retrieved in such a short space of time.

We held public outreach events on Marazion beach and Maenporth beach just down the road from our campsite.

I managed to get a super early morning radio interview and Sophie our media lady got is into the local press.

We had our eye on Louis Matisse Nichols, otherwise known as Mini Beach Cleaner.

Louis, 11, has been beach cleaning since he was two years old, and started his famous Instagram account @minibeachcleaner two years ago.

Radio Cornwall Interview

His pictures on Instagram depict the reality of the state of our beaches. Based in Newlyn, Cornwall, Louis and his family clean up litter on almost a daily basis.

At this time of year, with the school break, bank holidays, and summer weather, the beaches are being wrecked by thoughtless tourists and holidaymakers who buy bodyboards, balls, spades, and lots of food, and discard it all on the beach for someone else to deal with.

That is where Mini Beach Cleaner aka Louis comes in. Using his wonderful creativity, Louis creates collages from the vast amounts of rubbish he collects on Cornish beaches. Louis says he has “a list in [his] mind of what [he’s] going to create” and he takes inspiration from “the animals, and farms”.

When he was younger, Louis said to his parents that he didn’t need to go to school any longer, because being a bin-man meant no need for qualifications.

“He is incredibly creative” says his mum Nadine, who helps him with his beach cleans and acts as camera operator for his Instagram account. with chairman of ocean clean-up charity Ghost Fishing UK, for a taster session in how to remove deadly and toxic ghost fishing gear from the ocean.

We were so impressed with young Louis that we decided to invite him to join us.

Meeting at Porthkerris Dive Centre, Louis met Rich Walker, Chair of Ghost Fishing UK, to have his first ever scuba diving lesson. As a highly experienced dive instructor, Rich taught Louis how to use the breathing apparatus, hand signals for underwater communication, and most importantly how GFUK survey retrieve ghost gear.

Of course, no Ghost Fishing dive is so easy. Soon after Louis was getting his wetnotes out and surveying the net. He was then shown how to use the inflation nozzle to inflate a bright pink Halcyon Lift Bag and raise the net to the surface.

Insanely shy and probably with no concept of what a difference he is making - and will doubtless continue to make - to the our oceans, Louis didn't quite know what to say or do with himself afterwards so we took him out on the boat to watch the real Ghost Fishing divers in action and we even got to see a pod of dolphins who came out for the occasion.

We are told he did not stop talking about it for weeks afterwards!

The team wrapped up the week having recovered 540 kilos of lost ghost gear and we are extremely grateful to the SeaLife Trust for their support.

BBC Spotlight evening news piece on Ghost Fishing UK in Cornwall - Emily investigates.


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