Illegal net still a danger to divers
AN ILLEGAL fishing net which almost killed a diver four months ago has still not been removed despite posing a threat to human and marine life, campaigners have said.
Douglas Allen, co-owner of the Aquanauts Diving Centre, said it was only a matter of time before a diver became entangled in the net and died.
He said countless sea creatures, including a seal pup, had been killed after being ensnared in the net, near the green buoy opposite the Waterfront Restaurant,
"It's disgusting," he said. "The net was discovered in January when a diver became trapped, but fortunately he cut himself free after 20 minutes.
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"Afterwards he went back to take pictures of all the dead animals, including the seal pup.
"We were doing diving operations in the area last week and the net was discovered again."
Mr Allen says he is now desperate for the authorities to lift the net before it kills someone.
"It's like putting a wire across a road when a motorcyclist is coming," he said. "There must be someone who can do something about this.
"It should have been sorted in January and it has been left to kill lots more sea animals. If we don't get it up we're going to lose a diver."
It is an offence to trawl or use fishing nets within Plymouth Sound, with fines of up to £1,000 for anyone caught. Mr Allen says the owners of the net must have been fishing illegally, but were scared off when it was found.
"Whoever put it down there did it deliberately to kill and catch indiscriminantly," he said. "They left it when the story came out in January."
Wildlife campaigner and experienced diver Dave Peake said he was outraged that the net had yet to be taken away, calling it a massive threat to human and marine life.
"I was very surprised when I heard the net was still there," he said. "It's a ghost net, still taking marine life and fishing for ever.
"Something needs to be done. If the net was in Central Park catching deer there would be an outcry."
A catalogue of marine wildlife could be killed by the net including bottle-nosed dolphins, basking sharks and porpoises, he said.
"Two years ago a sea horse was spotted in the area where the net is and this is a very rare sight for Plymouth."
There appears to be confusion over which organisation has a duty to remove the net.
The Queen's Harbour Master said it was the responsibility of the Environment Agency, but this was denied by agency press officer Mike Dunning.
"We're only legally obliged to move nets three metres down and this one is 10 metres down," he said. "We're still trying to find out who's best placed to take the lead on removing it.
"We're aware that the net is still there because some divers have contacted us. We tried to remove it in January but it was in deep water and the equipment we used, a grapple hook, wasn't up to the job because of what was caught up in the net.
"We need a winch or lever."