State of ALDFG Knowledge in Canada

The FGCAC’s Comprehensive Report worked to capture knowledge from ongoing, completed and future Canadian projects that address ALDFG in the second chapter of the Report. This information has been summarized below and is essential to understanding what is known about ALDFG in Canada, assessing national efforts, connecting organizations doing similar work and limiting project duplication. ).


We used an online survey to assess ongoing, completed and planned projects involving ALDFG. The survey was created in consultation with the FGCAC and delivered using Google Forms. Open from July to October of 2019, the survey was initially circulated within the FGCAC, then circulated among networks to recruit other organizations. The aim was to capture as many ghost gear– and ALDFG-related projects as possible. Additional projects were included in this chapter as the researcher was made aware of them through networking and desktop research. In total, the chapter includes 28 projects. Of these, 21 are ongoing, four are completed and three are in the planning phase (Table 1; Figure 1). The research was conducted to capture complete information on each project. Each project has been profiled according to information collected through the survey. The profile includes a brief description, specific goals and objectives, major takeaways, successes, lessons learned and notable challenges. Note that some projects are not static in nature and are subject to change over time. While the list provided is as exhaustive as possible, some projects may have been missed during the survey and research.


Below are the profiles of projects being planned as captured in the online survey. 

Coastal Action – Southwest Nova Scotia Abandoned, Lost and Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG) Remediation Project

Location/Scope: South Shore of Nova Scotia: Lobster Fishing Areas 33, 34 and 35

Abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) in Atlantic Canada contributes heavily to marine debris, threatening the environment, livelihoods, and at-sea safety. The proposed project will prevent, reduce and assess impacts of ALDFG – also known as ghost gear – on the South Shore of Nova Scotia (LFA 33, 34 and 35) from July 2020 to March 2022. This will be accomplished by implementing waste management systems for responsible management of end-of-life gear, retrieving ALDFG from priority areas, conducting an impact assessment of ALDFG from the retrieval, and holding ongoing communication campaigns. 

Goals and Objectives:

  • Goal 1: Responsible Management

o   Objective: Facilitate effective waste resource management systems for end-of-life fishing gear by placing rope collection bins at select small-craft harbours in LFAs 33-35.

o   Objective: Capture 3-4 tonnes of rope from wharves so that it can be converted into fuel at Sustane Technologies.

  • Goal 2: ALDFG Retrieval

o   Objective: Conduct focus groups with fish harvesters to identify “hotspots” for gear loss.  

o   Objective: Map hotspots and overlay critical habitat, SARA and COSEWIC species, and areas of fishing significance to identify potential priority areas for retrieval efforts. 

o   Objective: Verify and confirm priority areas with fish harvesters with side-scan sonar and develop new grapnels to retrieve the gear, if necessary.

o   Objective: Contract fish harvesters to retrieve ALDFG in priority areas, as permitted by DFO.

  • Goal 3: ALDGF Environmental and Economic Impacts 

o   Objective: Monitor biofouling and bycatch of ALDFG during retrieval days to assess environmental and economic impacts.

o   Objective: Conduct an impact assessment by analyzing the data collected during monitoring to estimate economic impact from ghost fishing, assess potential threat to commercial lobster stock, and other threats to the environment.

  • Goal 4: Project Reporting and Communication 

o   Objective: Develop and launch education campaigns targeting fish harvesters and the greater public to order to inform them of the project’s findings and rope collection bins. We hope to stimulate positive media coverage highlighting the industry’s contributions to addressing ALDFG.

The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq – Keskaqowey Apuktuk Memjewey Mi’kma’ki (Ghost Gear in Mi’kma’ki)

Location/Scope: Mi’kma’ki Territories

This project will gather information on ghost gear from Mi’kmaq Communities.

Goals and Objectives: Incorporate local and Mi’kmaq knowledge on the subject and address any specific concerns of the Mi’kmaq. This project will run parallel with the FGCAC’s current project.

World Wildlife Fund of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador  – Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area and Ghost Fishing

Location/Scope: Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area, Labrador

This project is a collaboration between World Wildlife Fund-Canada (WWF), NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) and Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). It aims to mitigate the impacts of fishing on Golden cod and other vulnerable species within and adjacent to the Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area (GB-MPA), established in 2005. Despite MPA protection measures, the Golden cod sub-population is experiencing steep decline. NCC reached out to WWF with concerns regarding this important species and region. Given the regulatory complexity and industry’s reluctance to consider a split or delayed season, partners aim to create an alternative solution to balance economic fishing interests with MPA conservation objectives.

Golden cod are an endemic and isolated resident population that have specifically adapted to the unique conditions of Gilbert Bay. Physical barriers keep this resident population reproductively isolated from other cod populations in the region. They represent significant ecological value as they contribute to intraspecific diversity. Their genetic adaptation offers resilience for the species to changing environmental conditions. Overall, the protection and preservation of these specially adapted components promote the health and recovery of the species.

This project will help WWF-Canada and NCC gather preliminary knowledge about ALDFG in and around the Gilbert Bay MPA. It will highlight areas of concern related to ALDFG within the coastal communities around Gilbert Bay. This information will set the stage for mapping key areas for identifying – and eventually retrieving – ALDFG. By working collaboratively with our partners, this project aims to identify and remove ghost gear to reduce unintended bycatch of vulnerable species adjacent to the Gilbert Bay MPA. The ghost gear component will build on existing WWF-Canada research on the regulatory framework and licence conditions for monitoring and managing ghost gear, both within Canada and globally.

Goals and Objectives: Explore the nature and extent of ghost fishing/bycatch within the 2J stewardship fishery, and investigate the effectiveness of cod pots adjacent to the GB-MPA. The goal of the larger project is to reduce fishing mortality of Golden cod by reducing ghost gear catch and bycatch within the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) 2J stewardship fishery and measure the effectiveness of shifting fish harvesters from gillnets to cod pots adjacent to the GB-MPA.

The expected outcomes of this project are as follows:

  • Increase knowledge about methods for identifying and retrieving ghost gear.
  • Learn about the nature and extent of ghost fishing around the GB-MPA.
  • Reduce ghost gear in the GB-MPA, both by removing existing ghost gear and by increasing use of more sustainable gear, such as cod pots.
  • Support the GB-MPA regulatory conservation objectives, and ultimately, benefit the marine environment and at-risk species by reducing plastic pollution, unsustainable active fishing practices, ghost fishing, and unintended entanglement.