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Operation Mare Nostrum: The Coulombray has finally been freed from its ghost net!

Saturday, Aug 12, 2017

The Sea Shepherd team from Operation Mare Nostrum III met with representatives from the State, the Port Authority, and the Andromède Dive Club after the successful removal of the 1000m² ghost net abandoned in Le Coulombray. Report from Lamya Essemlali, President of Sea Shepherd France.

Sea Shepherd Montpellier volunteers, the Mayor of Palavas les Flot, Christian Jeanjean, and Adjoint-Mayor Arlette Coussy with the crew of the Brigitte Bardot.

For almost a year now, an enormous ghost net, abandoned by a poaching trawler, choked the ecological marine zone of Coulombray. A few weeks ago we decided to remove the net as a part of our Operation Mare Nostrum.

Over the last 11 days we have had 30 divers spend more than 20 hours total on site, which had restricted natural visibility, almost non-transparent at all during the work. We removed about 1000 square meters of net. There remains an estimated less than 1% of this overall surface size of the net leftover after our departure.

The remaining small pieces of net are tightly entwined around the chain. Some form a heap clamped in loopholes. These are not considered a threat to the local flora and fauna. Soon these pieces will be covered by growths and colonialized by the flora.

All living species of flora stuck in the netting were carefully removed by cutting them off with scissors to avoid damage. However, the zone remains largely eroded by the months-long presence of the ghost net. The site is no longer a danger for recreational divers, who can combine usefulness with pleasure by cutting off some last pieces of net entwined in the chain when possible.

A meeting took place this morning between Sea Shepherd, multiple services of the State (DREAL-DDTM-DML), the port authorities and the Andromède Dive Club, to wrap up this operation and discuss what will happen next. In this meeting, we discussed the net removal operation and the follow-up steps such as the recycling of the net. The State will take charge of the recycling part.

Xavier Eudes, Vice-President of the DDTM insisted on thanking Sea Shepherd for providing information from the Coulombray site, for eliminating the net, and for the nature of our intervention. He found the information helpful for determining the cause of the problem, and in determining how the State can do some complementary work on the site to wrap up the operation.

We acknowledge the quality of your intervention, for guaranteeing and mastering the safety of the divers in these harsh conditions with your rigorous protocol, as well as for carefully removing the net and thus guaranteeing the preservation of the site which comprises many intrinsic environmental qualities.

Xavier Eudes, Vice-President of the DDTM (Department of Marine Affairs, France)

For our part, we are content having finished pulling out the net in a few days, the Coulombray is finally able to breathe again. We are also happy that the existing tensions that came up when we started our operation dissipated in the end. We firmly hope to collaborate with the authorities and maintain a good relationship in order to better protect marine ecosystems.

We thank everyone who helped and assisted us during this operation: La Palanquée (dive shop) and Bulles Plongée (dive club); Mr. Richard Lapenne of Lomac France in Palavas (for fixing one of our speed boats); the Mayor of Palavers who provided trash bags, many fruits and vegetables and free parking for our speed boats; Brit Hotel Perols for the free accommodation and parking for our on-shore volunteers; Palavas Port for the free parking at the port and access to showers, etc. And huge thanks to all our donators for the continuous support, you enable us to be reactive and efficient on more and more fronts.

Operation Mare Nostrum III will continue until the end of September. Stay tuned for more news to come!

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