Underwater heritage site freed of encumbering net

Last Updated on Friday, 22 January, 2021 at 11:10 am by Andre Camilleri

The Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit (UCHU) within Heritage Malta, in its continuing collaboration with the ATLAM Dive Club, completed the removal of a net from the Southwold Bow site, one of Heritage Malta’s underwater sites.

The Southwold Bow site lies approximately 2.4km off the Marsascala coast and rests at a depth of 65 metres. HMS Southwold was a British Second World War Hunt-class destroyer. In March 1942, she struck a mine and split, sinking to the seabed in two sections (bow and stern).

The net removal operation was a joint effort between UCHU and the local ATLAM dive club. Six divers participated in one dive, successfully lifting the net and sending it to the surface.

The clearing of the Southwold Bow site is part of a larger net removal project currently being undertaken by UCHU at various Heritage Malta underwater sites. Apart from contributing to the preservation of our submerged cultural heritage, such operations also reap environmental benefits. Today, marine pollution is on the rise, and understanding its impacts on the environment is a priority. The elimination of ghost gear is an integral part of protecting the marine environment.

The presence of ghost gear – abandoned fishing nets, traps, pots and lines – in the world’s oceans is gaining traction, with an estimated 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear left in the oceans every year. The dangers of ghost gear lie in its material durability, often floating on ocean currents and indiscriminately ghost fishing its way across the sea. The Mediterranean and Malta are not exempt from this. The threat of entanglement is there for marine flora and fauna, often attracted to and flourishing at wreck sites. The threat is also there to divers visiting the site, often unaware of the dangers of ghost gear.

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