Divers are on a clean-up mission to remove sunken fishing gear off the west Dorset coast which is harming marine life.

The target was a large net entangled in a wreck 40 metres down in Lyme Bay.

And thanks to an environmental partnership, the recovered net will eventually be recycled and made into a type of yarn used to make socks or carpets.

The mission to recover the gear is being led by clean-up charity Ghost Fishing UK (GFUK) which is working with people from the environmental initiative Healthy Seas.

Discarded, lost or abandoned fishing equipment – which typically gets entangled in reefs and wrecks – is known as ghost fishing gear.

Ghost Fishing UK has made it its mission to clear the seas of such kit.

A team of seven divers set out from Portland on Monday on local boat Scimitar in a bid to survey the wreck to assist a recovery plan.

A dive was due to take place yesterday to retrieve the hazardous ghost gear – however it was postponed due to bad weather so the team went to retrieve nets in Portland Harbour instead where birds, crabs and fish were trapped.

The Lyme Bay operation was prompted after boat skipper and owner of Portland-based charter firm Scimitar Diving, Nick Bentall, reported to GFUK the location of a large net entangled in the as yet unidentified ‘unknown wreck’. The net was said to be actively catching marine life.

GFUK hand-picked their most skilled divers for the survey and removal of the entangled material, owing to the depth and decompression obligations of the dive.

Recovery of ghost gear is a dangerous task. Divers must work in teams, quickly and efficiently to cut away rope, net, and line. Dislodged matter is stuffed into bags and shot to the surface with Halcyon inflatable lift bags. The team on the surface look out for lift bags arriving, and haul the bags in for the quick removal of still living marine life.

Healthy Seas is instrumental in ensuring that recovered synthetics are recycled. The mission of ‘Healthy Seas, a Journey from Waste to Wear’ initiative, is to remove waste from the seas, in particular fishing nets, for the purpose of creating healthier seas and recycling marine litter into textile products. The recovered nylon fishing nets will be transformed and regenerated by Aquafil into Econyl yarn, a high-quality raw material used to create new products, such as socks, swimwear or carpets.

GFUK says there is a lack of documented evidence on just how much the presence of ghost gear in the ocean affects wildlife and marine habitats. The United Nations estimate that 640,000 tonnes of ghost fishing nets reach our oceans every year, killing and maiming marine life. It could take as long as 600 years for these nets to breakdown in the water, becoming eventually the micro plastics whose astronomic dangers we are just learning of now.