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Volunteer divers work to remove dangerous 'ghost nets' from some of the world's most-visited waters: 'An intense effort'

They have no plans of stopping. 

Photo Credit: iStock

In the crystal blue ocean off the coast of Greece, some people relax in the warm water, while others fight tirelessly to protect it. 

The "others" in this case are the volunteers behind Aegean Rebreath, which calls itself "a multi-sectoral organization working on the protection and renewal of the marine environment." 

The nonprofit was established in 2017 in response to the urgent need to clean the seabed and to promote the protection of biodiversity in the Aegean Sea. 

The group began when a small network of citizens who were passionate about the preservation of the marine environment launched underwater and coastal cleanups. Very quickly, they gained the interest and support of other citizens and organizations. Through its programs, Aegean Rebreath works to change the way people interact with the sea, both locally and nationally. 

One of the biggest threats to the sea near Greece is "ghost nets" — fishing nets that have been either lost or abandoned in the ocean — which account for 10% of the trash found on the seafloor and have claimed the lives of thousands of fish, according to Euronews. 

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported that once abandoned, ghost nets continue to trap everything in their path, including sea turtles, dolphins and porpoises, birds, sharks, seals, and more. 

Further, a single net can trap hundreds of animals, and they also harm coral reefs by breaking them apart and exposing them to disease and, at times, even blocking the reefs from needed sunlight.

Since most modern fishing nets are made of nylon or other plastic compounds, they are also a major contributor to the ocean plastics crisis, accounting for almost half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, according to a 2018 study in Scientific Reports as reported by the WWF. 

Aegean Rebreath's volunteer divers are working hard to remove these ghost nets and other plastics from marine environments. Euronews reported that, to date, the group's 300 volunteer divers have removed over 28 tons of ghost nets and hundreds of thousands of plastic bags from Greek waters — and they have no plans of stopping. 

"An intense effort has been made over the past five years to recover all these lost nets that may have only fished for one day, but continued for years to trap fish and the other valuable flora and fauna that exists in our seas," Antonis Sigalas, the mayor of Santorini, Greece, told Euronews.

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