CANADA REMOVES GHOST GEAR FROM THE SEA
Canada removes ghost gear from the sea. Lost, abandoned and discarded fishing gear, or ‘ghost gear,’ is one of the largest causes of marine pollution today. In response to this growing issue, the Government of Canada launched the Ghost Gear Fund in January 2020, supporting 26 projects to retrieve and reduce ghost gear in our oceans. Estimates show that these funded projects, plus others, have since removed 63 tonnes of lost or discarded fishing gear from coastal waters in Atlantic Canada in 2020 – the equivalent weight of 11 elephants.
The gear retrieved came from a combination of projects: the Department’s $8.3 million Ghost Gear Fund, self-funded third-party projects authorised by the Department to collect gear, fishery officer patrols, and retrieved gear reports submitted by fish harvesters. The vast majority of the gear retrieved—approximately 86 per cent—were traps and pots commonly used in the lobster and crab fishing industries. The remaining 14 per cent were a combination of nets and longline from various fisheries. Just over 3,200 metres of rope was collected – the equivalent length of 32 football fields.
All gear retrieved to date has been in Atlantic Canada, but several retrieval projects will start on the Pacific coast in early 2021. Gear retrieval will resume in the Atlantic region, including in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in the spring prior to the opening, and following the end of fishing seasons. In 2020:
- 80 per cent of gear was retrieved from the Bay of Fundy and coastal waters off Nova Scotia;
- 14 per cent came from the Gulf of St. Lawrence; and
- 6 per cent was retrieved from coastal waters off Newfoundland.
The Ghost Gear Programme also works to reunite lost fishing gear with its owner, a process made possible through increased reporting requirements introduced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2018. Over 100 pieces of marked gear have been claimed by harvesters through the programme, and 25 pieces were relinquished by harvesters, allowing for them to be safety disposed of by the Department.
Gear retrieval is just one of four areas of activity supported by the Ghost Gear Fund. While it represents the bulk of the 26 projects funded until 2022, projects focusing on responsible disposal, acquisition and piloting of available technology, and international leadership also made headway in 2020:
- A recycling depot specifically designed for end-of-life fishing gear was built in Ucluelet, British Columbia;
- Smart buoy technology was tested in multiple locations in Nova Scotia; and
- Several craft workshops using end-of-life fishing gear were hosted in Nigeria, creating economic opportunities for coastal communities.
The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said:
“We launched the Ghost Gear Fund to help rid our oceans of harmful waste and protect our marine ecosystems. The incredible results we’re already seeing are the result of hardworking individuals across Canada and abroad who share in this goal of a healthy, clean ocean. Not only have participants removed 63 tonnes of waste from the Atlantic Ocean – including plastics, rope, buoys, and lost fishing traps – but the programme is also helping create more sustainable fishing gear for the long term. I look forward to seeing what the Ghost Gear Fund achieves in 2021 and beyond, as we build on the immense successes achieved within its first year.”