DARTMOUTH, Nova Scotia –The federal government is launching a fishing gear retrieval contribution program that will provide up to $8.3 million to assist fish harvesters, environmental groups, Indigenous communities, the aquaculture industry, and coastal communities to find and retrieve harmful ghost gear from the ocean and dispose of it responsibly.
Every year, 640,000 tons of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear, also known as ghost gear, enters the oceans. Ghost fishing gear can stay in the ocean for hundreds of years and entangles and continues to catch species like whales, turtles, sharks and fish. A 2016 study by the World Economic Forum identified the breakdown in the global plastic system: 32 percent of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans, which is the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
The Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution Program will also support fish harvesters to acquire new clean technologies to reduce gear loss. This new program is designed to address the entire spectrum of issues surrounding ghost gear, including prevention, mitigation and disposal.
To further address ghost gear in the oceans, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will host a Gear Innovation Summit in February 2020, which will include discussions on technological solutions to prevent ghost fishing gear from entering the oceans in the first place.
“Ghost gear undermines the sustainability of our fisheries, often trapping marine animals which would otherwise be part of a regular catch. Not only is it damaging to the ecosystem, it affects the industries and coastal communities that depend on fisheries for their livelihoods,” said Halifax MP Andy Fillmore.
“This program will be a tremendous asset to harvesters, small craft harbours, and all those with a vested interest in keeping our waters clean and healthy.”
In July 2019, Fisheries and Oceans Canada alongside industry partners and local communities conducted a three-day ghost fishing gear retrieval program in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Over 100 snow crab traps and nine kilometers of rope were removed during the operation.
At the 2018 G7 meeting of Environment, Energy and Oceans Ministers, Canada became a signatory to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and committed to combatting ghost fishing gear at home and internationally.
In support of the G7 plastics Charter, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has committed $2.6 million dollars towards initiatives that invite Canadian small businesses to develop innovative technologies to reduce domestic marine plastic waste.
An assessment of regulations is currently underway to ensure that any potential impediments to addressing and reducing ghost gear domestically are identified and addressed.