The five sea warrior women protecting marine life from ghost gear

09 June 2017

Meet the amazing women leading our global work tackling the devastation caused by marine litter. This remarkable team is fighting to stop the unnecessary, agonising deaths of hundreds of thousands of animals due to lost and abandoned fishing gear

Every year, more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals and turtles are caught in ‘ghost gear’ - abandoned, lost and discarded fishing nets, lines and traps.

A staggering 640,000 tonnes of this gear is left in our oceans annually. Most ghost gear is made of plastics that can take up to 600 years to decompose.

Animals caught in ghost gear often suffer a prolonged and painful death, which can involve slowly suffocating or starving to death.

Meet five women on the frontline trying to change this.

Meet our ocean heroes

1. Ingrid Giskes leads our Sea Change campaign. Originally from Belgium, she has worked with us for more than six years and is now based in Sydney, Australia.

On any given day, Ingrid could be talking to governments at the United Nations, working with companies such as Young’s Seafood around corporate social responsibility or meeting with generous supporters.

Earlier this year, Ingrid went to Jakarta with an idea of what a project on gear marking (which enables the owners of lost and abandoned fishing gear to be traced) could look like. After hearing about the realities of the local people, considering their livelihoods and food security, she worked with local partners over several days ensuring it would be practical and sustainable.

Ingrid lives in a cottage next to the beach and is a keen swimmer, runner and snorkeler. The ocean, and the life within it, inspires her every day.

2. Christina Dixon is our oceans campaign manager, based in London.

Chris has worked on a large number of initiatives to help remove these floating death traps from the world’s oceans.

From joining a dive vessel in Wales to remove ghost gear, leading a project in Scotland to map and recover lost gear, to meeting with seafood companies to discuss how ghost gear can be beneficial to their supply chains, Chris’ job is busy and varied.

Her most inspiring trip was working with a team of divers in Scapa Flow in Orkney. She spent five days living and working on a boat at sea to solve the issue of lost gear collected on the WW2 wrecks in Scapa Flow. The project is now entering its third year and a staggering amount of gear has been removed.

When not saving whales and dolphins, and campaigning at the United Nations, Chris plays bass in two punk bands and is a roller derby athlete, hoping to compete in a world cup next year.

3. Elizabeth Hogan is our oceans and wildlife campaign manager in the United States.

She specializes in marine wildlife entanglement, reducing marine debris, and working on whaling policy.

For the last five years, Elizabeth has researched the impact of derelict fishing gear on marine mammals and has established rescue networks and protocols for entangled sea animals.

Elizabeth is a contributing author to two books on corporate social responsibility. She has a degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, a dual Master of Science in Marine and Coastal Natural Resources as well as a Master of Science in Sustainable Development from the University for Peace in Costa Rica and American University in Washington, DC.

Elizabeth recently travelled to Alaska on a mission to rescue and free entangled seals and sea lions in an area where animals are especially vulnerable to entanglement.

4. Chiara Vitali is the wildlife campaigner for our UK office.

Chiara has been passionate about animal welfare since starting her first petition at the age of 11 against the fur industry in Italy, where she grew up.

Chiara spends lots of time with the amazing people who are working to remove ghost gear from the sea, where they also rescue entangled animals and prevent more gear from ending up in the oceans.

One of Chiara’s most rewarding field trips was a visit to a Cornish wreck off the coast of Penzance where she helped retrieve a huge trawler net that could have killed many animals over the next few hundred years.

5. Lynn Kavanagh is our oceans and wildlife campaign manager, and is based in Canada.

One of the most exciting projects Lynn was involved in for our Sea Change campaign was working to remove a 25-year-old net situated near Pender Island, BC.

The derelict net had been in the same place for years, where it killed large numbers of marine animals.

Lynn’s team removed a whopping 4,600 lbs of deadly netting, saving the lives of large numbers of future marine animals.

As well as our sea warrior women introduced here who work with colleagues around the world on this campaign, we couldn’t do this without supporters like you.

Thank you.

A staggering 640,000 tonnes of this gear is left in our oceans annually. Most ghost gear is made of plastics that can take up to 600 years to decompose.

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