Fathoms Free

Fathoms Free is dedicated to safeguarding marine wildlife and the environment in Cornwall by removing abandoned fishing gear and other marine debris. Known as Ghost Fishing Gear, this lost equipment endangers marine life through entanglement, and negatively affects marine ecosystems and food chains when it breaks down into microplastics. Fathoms Free urgently responds to reports to locate and remove ghost gear, preventing further harm.

December 2023

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Fathoms Free work to protect marine wildlife and environment by removing abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear as well as all other marine debris from the coastal waters of Cornwall.

This lost equipment is known as Ghost Fishing Gear, as it continues to “fish” entangling and trapping and killing wildlife indiscriminately unless it is removed from the sea. These animals will die trapped and then act as bait attracting more wildlife in a vicious cycle until the ghost gear is removed from the water.

Fathoms Free respond to reports from divers and other water users to locate and remove ghost fishing gear as a matter of urgency. Nets that have washed up on shore need to be recovered before the next high tide comes to take it back to sea. Ghost gear sightings reported in underwater sites could be moved on by tides and currents so it’s important to act quickly, and the longer it is left in the water the more destruction it will cause to the habitat and more wildlife killed.

Plastic marine debris is causing harm to wildlife in the sea and on land, often mistaken for food, and killing the animal by entanglement. Marine plastic litter will also break down over time into smaller plastic fragments that we know to have entered the food chain as micro plastics. This plastic pollution poses a huge threat to wildlife and the environment, so the more we can remove before this occurs the better. 

Fathoms Free would use a grant to fully repair or replace their boat trailer. It has become less reliable over time due to general wear and tear and corrosion associated with use for launching in salt water which has affected the team’s ability to respond to reports of ghost gear at short notice around the Cornish coastline.


“Fathoms Free is a charity run completely by volunteers. The trustees, divers, crew, administrators are all doing this important work in their spare time because protecting wildlife and the environment is very important and we cannot stand by and do nothing when faced with the suffering of marine wildlife. 

Every lost or abandoned net or pot we remove will save the lives of countless animals that would have ended up entangled and trapped. We can all make a difference.”

Elle Speirs

Fathoms Free

Having met with Luke and Elle who are both trustees and professional divers, I could see how passionate they are about protecting the marine life that can get caught up in ghost fishing gear. Being divers themselves, their knowledge underpins the work they do, and they also take part in the dives that remove ghost gear along with the team of volunteers.

They have a boat that is in good order, but their trailer is constantly being “patched” up. This is a vital piece of equipment for transporting the boat they use to remove ghost gear and without they wouldn’t be able to operate. A new trailer would be more reliable and safer, and ensure that they can respond to calls quickly.”

Michelle Taft

Executive Director, Matthew Good Foundation

Latest Project Updates

Granted £3,500
December 2023

£3,500 Granted

After employees at the John Good Group voted for their favourite causes, Fathoms Free received a grant of £3,500.

December 2023

Grants for Good Finalist

Fathoms Free has become one of the top five finalists in the latest Grants for Good round, and will receive a grant between £2000 and £5000 after employees at the John Good Group have voted on their favourite causes.