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Phuket’s Battle Below Waves: Divers and Salisa Traipipitsiriwat’s Fight Against Ghost Gear Menace

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Picture this: an idyllic scene off the coast of Phuket, where the waters shimmer a dazzling turquoise, hiding a less picturesque reality beneath. On April 4, 2024, amidst this scenic beauty, a star puffer fish finds itself an unwitting prisoner within the confines of an abandoned fishing cage, a stark symbol of the unseen battle raging under the waves. This is not an isolated incident but a glimpse into a growing crisis in the waters off Thailand and other parts of the world — the menace of “ghost gear.”

Ghost gear, as it’s ominously named, refers to the forgotten or lost fishing equipment that haunts our oceans, ensnaring unsuspecting marine life in its grasp. Made predominantly of plastic, this debris not only traps sea creatures but also contributes to the burgeoning issue of microplastics pollution as it breaks down over time. The coral reefs, vibrant with life, are transformed into graveyards, entangled in nets and ropes left behind by humans.

In the shadows of these startling revelations, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources in Thailand has sounded the alarm: the percentage of endangered marine life affected by plastic pollution in the upper Andaman Sea has frighteningly jumped from 20% in 2021 to a staggering 30% by 2023. The numbers speak volumes, telling tales of devastation and the urgent need for action.

Enter the knights of the underwater realm: scuba divers and marine organizations, driven by a shared mission to liberate the reefs from the clutches of ghost gear. These cleanup missions, though flush with valiant efforts, bump against the challenge of grappling with the true scale of the problem. There’s a dire need for a unified battle plan, a strategy that’s lacking, leaving these heroes to fight a Goliath without a sling.

In the midst of this turmoil, Salisa Traipipitsiriwat, a name synonymous with marine advocacy, shines as a beacon of hope. As a senior campaigner with the Environmental Justice Foundation, Salisa underscores the power of community — the divers, the fishermen, the government sectors — all rallying together in this cleanup crusade. Yet, she voices a critical bottleneck: “Even though there is collection of waste, there is no uniform data collection,” highlighting a significant chink in their armor.

Off the shores of Phuket, about 20 volunteer divers don their knightly scuba gear, descending into the depths with scissors and nets, not in search of treasure, but to salvage the future of our oceans. They meticulously record data, like modern-day scribes, charting their victories and losses against ghost gear. This small army is on the frontline, beckoning others to join their ranks, while also corralling about 500 fishermen into their ranks to retrieve the abandoned nets that mar the sea.

The fruits of their labor are not lost; the collected trash is assessed, weighed, and where destiny allows, reborn through recycling into new objects, giving a second life to what was once a marine death sentence. An astounding 130 tons of such debris has been rescued by EJF’s efforts, a testament to their unwavering commitment.

In a somber twist, a dead turtle’s story unfolds onshore, its final meal — pieces of rope and plastic. This tragic discovery, presided over by Patcharaporn Kaewmong of the marine rescue center, serves as a grim reminder of the plastic pandemic sweeping our seas. “As of today, plastic waste is one of the main causes of endangered marine animals washing ashore,” Patcharaporn remarks, lending her voice to the clarion call for change.

Thus, beneath the serene vistas of Phuket, a war rages silently — a war against ghost gear. It’s a battle that calls for heroes, for unity, for innovation. A battle not just for the survival of marine life, but for the health of our oceans and, ultimately, our future.


  1. SaraL April 20, 2024

    Incredible initiative but is it enough? The problem seems much bigger than what a handful of volunteers can manage. It seems like we’re just scratching the surface of the ghost gear issue.

    • DiveMasterJake April 20, 2024

      It’s true that the problem is massive, but every piece of net removed is a potential life saved. It’s about doing what we can, however small it may seem.

      • EcoWarrior21 April 20, 2024

        Exactly, it’s about collective action. If more people get involved, the impact will grow exponentially. It’s everyone’s ocean, after all.

    • OceanHugger April 20, 2024

      But shouldn’t the focus be on preventing this from happening in the first place? Cleanup is great, but it’s like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound.

      • SaraL April 20, 2024

        Agreed! Prevention is key. Maybe stricter regulations on fishing equipment or more sustainable practices could help?

  2. FishFriend April 20, 2024

    This breaks my heart. Reading about the dead turtle choked on plastic just shows how our actions directly affect these innocent creatures.

    • SkepticalSam April 20, 2024

      Isn’t this a bit overly dramatic? Yes, it’s sad, but the ocean is vast. Can a few incidents like this really tip the balance?

      • MarineBioMajor April 20, 2024

        It’s not overly dramatic at all. These incidents accumulate, harming not just individual animals but entire ecosystems. It’s a bigger problem than it seems.

  3. TechGuru88 April 20, 2024

    Why aren’t we leveraging technology more in this fight? Drones, robotics, AI for tracking and collecting debris could make these efforts more efficient and far-reaching.

    • DiveMasterJake April 20, 2024

      Great point! Some organizations are starting to use tech, but funding and resources are always a challenge. Plus, we need more data for AI to be truly effective.

      • InnovatorLiz April 20, 2024

        Maybe a global crowdfunding campaign to finance more tech-driven cleanup operations? Public education can also play a huge role in prevention.

  4. GreenThumbLisa April 20, 2024

    Articles like this make me so angry. How can we continue to let our oceans turn into dumping grounds? More awareness -> more action.

    • PolicyPundit April 20, 2024

      Anger is valid, but we need to transform it into policy change and actionable strategies. Environmental policies need to be more aggressive and properly enforced.

      • GreenThumbLisa April 20, 2024

        True. It’s about time we demand more from our leaders. Signing petitions and supporting marine conservation orgs could be a good start.

  5. CuriousCat April 20, 2024

    Isn’t fishing supposed to be a sustainable source of food? How did it turn into such a destructive industry with all this ghost gear?

    • EthicalEater April 20, 2024

      Overfishing and poor regulations lead to these problems. Sustainable fishing is possible, but it requires global cooperation and stricter oversight.

      • CuriousCat April 20, 2024

        Makes sense. Seems like a lot of industries start out sustainable until greed and lack of oversight get in the way.

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