Ongoing

FISHING GEAR COALITION OF ATLANTIC CANADA

Ongoing ALDFG Projects

Table 1. Summary of ALDFG- and ghost gear–related projects captured through the survey, listed by organization. The survey was open from July to October of 2019. Note that contacts are subject to change over time.

Organization

Contact 

Location/Scope

Project Title


Ashored Innovations

Aaron Stevenson

Atlantic Canada; Global

Ashored Loss Prevention Strategy

Canadian Whale Institute

N/A

Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (GSL)

Monitoring and Stewardship Toward New and Effective Risk Mitigation for Right Whales in Atlantic Canada

Canadian Wildlife Federation

Elizabeth Baker

Atlantic Canada

Field testing of ropeless gear to help mitigate entanglement risk to marine mammals

Cape Breton Environmental Association

Dylan Yates

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

ALDFG Removal

Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR)

Max Liboiron

St. John’s, Newfoundland

Fragmentation of fishing gear into microplastics

Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR)

Max Liboiron

Global; focus on Newfoundland and Labrador

Fish tag circulation project

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Newfoundland (CPAWS-NL)

Mary Alliston Butt

Newfoundland and Labrador

Ship-to-Shore NL

Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)

National Manager

Canada; Regional focuses

Ghost Gear Program

EnviroCulture Consulting

Marcus Goodick

Stewiacke, Nova Scotia; Atlantic Canada

Recycling rope, net, and other end-of-life fishing and aquaculture industry plastics into plastic lumber 

Fishermen and Scientists Research Society (FSRS)

Shannon Scott Tibbetts

South and Eastern Shore, Nova Scotia

LEK to qualify and map Ghost Gear in NS

Fundy North Fishermen’s Association (FNFA)

Darlene Norman-Brown

Bay of Fundy; Gulf Region

Reducing Entanglement Threats Through Ghost Gear Removal: Expanding Lost Fishing Gear Retrieval Projects in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf Regions

Homarus Inc.

Douina Daoud

Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence

To facilitate coexistence between fisheries and species at risk in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence: Reduction of cordages during fishing, awareness and commitment within the community, ghost-gear retrieval project

Huntsman Marine Science Centre

Jackie Walker

Southwest New Brunswick

Debris Free Fundy 

Memorial University

Jessica Melvin

Placentia Bay, Newfoundland

Placentia Bay Ocean Debris Survey (PODS)

Merinov

Jérôme Laurent

Gulf of St. Lawrence

Reduced the threat of ghost fishing to aquatic species at risk in snow crab fishing areas of the Gulf of St. Lawrence by recovering traps abandoned on the seabed

Mingan Island Cetacean Study

Christian Ramp

Gulf of St. Lawrence

Ecology of baleen whales in the Gulf of St Lawrence

Prince Edward Island Herring Fishermen’s Association

Laura Ramsay

Herring Fishing Area 16G, Eastern PEI  

16G Gear Retrieval Project

Prince Edward Island Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association

Laura Ramsay

Western Gulf, Prince Edwards Island

LFA 24 Ghost Gear Clean-up

Steveston Harbour Authority

Glenn Chow

British Columbia

Commercial Fishing Net Recycling 

T Buck Suzuki Foundation

Megan Eadie

British Columbia

BC Lost Gear Knowledge Gathering

 

Figure 1. Geographic locations of projects included in Chapter 2, identified by the organization’s office. Most projects (26) were in Atlantic Canada. Two were on the West Coast, shown in the smaller map for scale.

Ongoing Projects

Below are profiles of ongoing projects as captured in the online survey. The major take-aways can be seen as valuable contributions to ALDFG knowledge. However, as these ongoing projects are in different phases, some have yet to determine their successes, lessons learned and notable challenges.

Ashored Innovations – Ashored Loss Prevention Strategy

Location/Scope: Atlantic Canada and Global

Ashored Inc., an ocean technology company based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is developing a line of sustainability-enabling technologies. The company focuses on improving the sustainability and efficiency of the commercial marine fishery and minimizing impacts of commercial activities on the oceans. While currently in the research and development phase, the company’s signature products are designed to protect endangered marine life, and to capture and display valuable details about the gear and catch with a ropeless fishing system (MOBI) and gear-tracking system (ATLAS).

Goals and Objectives: Develop ropeless fishing and gear-tracking technologies for trap fisheries and expand to include comparable solutions for other fisheries.

Major Take-Aways: Containing ropes on the ocean floor next to the traps, combined with accurate gear tracking, prevents conditions often leading to gear loss and aids in the recovery of gear by marking its last known location.

Successes and Lessons Learned: TBD – Still testing the product.

Notable Challenges: Cost remains a concern to broad adoption.

Canadian Whale Institute – Monitoring and Stewardship Towards New and Effective Risk Mitigation for Right Whales in Atlantic Canada

Location/Scope: Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (GSL)

This three-year (2019–2022) monitoring, stewardship and outreach project undertakes activities proven to reduce the risk of vessel strikes and fishing-gear entanglements to endangered North Atlantic right whales (NARW). The monitoring program will facilitate stewardship by keeping GSL stakeholders (shipping and fishing industries) apprised of changes in NARW distribution in near real time with data from visual and acoustic surveys. The program will track changes in whale distribution, health, threats and risks in a high-risk foraging habitat – all factors that must be addressed to reduce injury and mortality caused by human activities (shipping and fishing). The work will also document and benefit blue fin whales. The project explicitly addresses national priorities for the Habitat Stewardship Protection/Species at Risk Stream in the following ways:

  • It implements priority activities described in right whale and blue whale recovery strategies and action plans.
  • It involves collaboration among multiple stakeholders and partners.

Goals and Objectives: 

  • Collaborate with snow crab fishers to undertake vessel-based monitoring surveys in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for right, fin and blue whales. Fishers (captain and crew) will learn how to identify right whales at sea from their own boats. Through hands-on experience, they will learn about the animals and the risks they face, develop an understanding of whale behaviour, learn to navigate around whales, and become familiar with the research program. All of these factors will increase fishers’ capacity and willingness to engage in stewardship. 
  • Contribute to dynamic management measures and outreach by providing data. Shipping and fishing industries need real-time location information to plan their activities. 
  • Record fishing gear and vessel activity observed during surveys. The project will employ systematic track line methodology and computerized track and data logging to assess the number, location and individual identification of right and blue whales (i.e. distribution), in selected areas of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 
  • Use photos to assess individual health, scarring and entanglements. All whale sightings will be communicated daily to DFO managers, Dalhousie University’s Whale Map, Transport Canada’s Situational Centre, and the National Marine Fisheries Service Sighting Advisory System. This information will be used for management and advisory purposes, and uploaded to online advisory bulletins. 
  • With collaborators, conduct real-time acoustic-glider monitoring in the southern GSL during the snow crab fishing period. The gliders have proven to be critical monitoring tools – especially during winter, spring and autumn, when poor sighting conditions significantly reduce aerial and vessel visual surveillance. Visual and acoustic monitoring programs will provide critical data required to manage threats in high-risk areas (i.e., areas of high whale density). CWI is trying to improve the management of at-risk species according to SARA regulations and HSP priorities.
  • Encourage participation and collaboration. The project will enable Canadians (fishers as well as national and international vessel owners/operators) to become actively and concretely involved in the stewardship of at-risk whales; this engagement will result in tangible and measurable conservation benefits. For example, fishers will participate in the vessel-based visual monitoring surveys, which will take place onboard their vessel. Monitoring is a critical component of a larger stewardship-and-outreach initiative to reduce risk to whales. 

Major Take-Aways: Location of ghost gear and ALDFG recorded by researchers during visual right whale surveys and reported to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is used to relocate and remove ghost gear and ALDFG.

Successes and Lessons Learned: DFO can remove ghost gear and ALDFG reported during surveys from areas where right whales are present. This reduces the risk of entanglement to right whales and other whale species.

Notable Challenges: Surveys are conducted on a snow crab fishing vessel that has capacity to remove ghost gear and ALDFG from water, but is not permitted to haul any fishing gear. This delays by days or weeks the removal of gear from areas where right whales are present, increasing the risk of entanglement.

Canadian Wildlife Federation – Field testing of ropeless gear to mitigate entanglement risk to marine mammals

Location/Scope: Eastern Canada

Canadian Wildlife Federation is partnering with fish harvesters and fishing organizations to help them lead testing of ropeless fishing gear technologies. CWF is seeking to determine if ropeless gear is feasible for commercial (including communal commercial) fixed-gear fisheries. Ropeless gear may allow harvesters to access fishing areas that have been closed because they pose entanglement risks to marine mammals, such as the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. 

As ropeless gear is still in its infancy, the input of fish harvesters is critical to its further modification and development. CFW has secured funding to purchase different ropeless systems and allow harvesters to test and modify them to determine if they can be made suitable for their local fisheries. CWF has contacted developers of various ropeless systems, all of which use an acoustically triggered release mechanism that allows either a float (buoy) or the gear itself to be brought to the surface for retrieval. 

CWF aims to develop a framework to test various ropeless gear systems to determine if they are suitable for a specific commercial fishery. As fish harvesters know best what is required of the gear, CWF wants them to inform this framework and to lead testing on the water. CFW seeks answers to the following questions:  

1) Does the gear work?

2) If it doesn’t currently work, can modifications be made to make it work? 

3) If it doesn’t work at all, why is this the case? 

This evaluation framework will be developed through consultations with fish harvesters, and adapted throughout field testing of the ropeless gear.

Goals and Objectives: 

  • To determine whether ropeless fishing gear is a viable option for commercial fisheries in Eastern Canada. Ropeless fishing gear could reduce the risk of entangling marine mammals, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. 
  • While managing ALDFG is not a specific goal of this project, the use of ropeless fishing gear could ultimately reduce the loss of traditional fishing gear. For example, if there were fewer unattended lines in the water, there would be less chance of vessels cutting off gear. In addition, acoustic location devices on ropeless fishing gear could be used to locate gear that has drifted or been lost. 
  • CWF’s trials will determine failure and success rates of different ropeless systems. As a secondary finding, these trials could contribute information on whether these systems would mitigate ALDFG problems.

Major Take-Aways: Results will determine whether, under certain circumstances, ropeless fishing gear can be used as a viable tool to prevent entanglement of wildlife and subsequent loss of gear. This technology may also spark new ideas for retrieving lost gear – for example, the use of gear-locating technologies or acoustic tagging of gear.

Successes and Lessons Learned: Still in progress.

Notable Challenges: 

  • The fishing industry has an aversion to ropeless fishing.
  • Many ropeless technologies are still in the prototype phase.
  • There are general problems with ropeless gear systems.
  • Technologies are not suited to some of the harsh conditions in Atlantic Canada.
  • There are policy barriers to the use of ropeless gear.
  • There are enforcement concerns with the use of ropeless gear.
  • It is difficult to find adequate technology to mark and locate ropeless gear.

Cape Breton Environmental Association – Abandoned, Lost, and Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG) Removal

Location/Scope: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Environmental Association (CBEA) has been involved in removing derelict gear from shorelines in Cape Breton for the past year and will continue these efforts. CBEA has also patrolled the coastline for ghost gear in the water and has a few more patrols planned. The goal is to showcase issues associated with ALDFG and collect vital information about the scope of the problem in Cape Breton, both on the shorelines and in the water.

Goals and Objectives: Remove and record ALDFG in Cape Breton.

Major Take-Aways: ALDFG is a major problem and Cape Breton is witnessing its impacts firsthand.

Successes and Lessons Learned: A collaborative approach is the best way to solve the problem of ALDFG.

Notable Challenges: DFO regulations are a barrier for both CBEA and fish harvesters when they try to retrieve ghost gear.

Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR) – Fragmentation of fishing gear into microplastics

Location/Scope: St. John’s, Newfoundland

Master’s student Jackie Saturno has created an experimental environment at Memorial University and CLEAR where three different types of common polymer ropes are exposed to simulated environmental conditions. The ropes’ respective rates and characteristics of fragmentation into microplastics are recorded.

Goals and Objectives: 

  • Learn how fishing gear fragments when it is exposed to environmental conditions consistent both with heavy use and loss in the ocean.
  • Compare different types of gear for fragmentation characteristics.

Major Take-Aways: This project will determine the ways/rates at which gear becomes a new form of marine pollution via microplastics, including how different polymers contribute in different ways.

Successes and Lessons Learned: TBD

Notable Challenges: TBD

Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR) Fish tag circulation project[DH1] [AG2] 

Location/Scope: Global, focus on Newfoundland and Labrador

Using fishing tags, this project maps fishing-gear plastics as they circulate away from N.L. and into global waters. It also maps the tags that wash up on some N.L. shores.

Goals and Objectives: Map the circulation of marine plastics using fishing tags (mainly from the lobster fishery).

Major Take-Aways: This project will indicate where N.L. plastics travel to worldwide, as well as where plastic waste that lands in N.L. is coming from.

Successes and Lessons Learned: TBD

Notable Challenges: Patchy data resulting from limited coverage in coastal areas that are easily accessed by beachcombers. Fishing tags are a challenging source of information for spatial and temporal analysis. Since multiple entities have been in charge of manufacturing these tags throughout the years, there is no standardization of the codes used in the tags, resulting in inconsistencies in terms of what information we can extract. For example, only the most recent lobster tags contain information on fishing areas where the tag was deployed and the year of manufacturing. This contrasts with tags pre-2010, which may indicate only that these tags are from Canadian fisheries and provide no temporal information.

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Newfoundland (CPAWS-NL) – Ship-to-Shore NL

Location/Scope: Newfoundland and Labrador

Through working with fish harvesters, ocean users and harbour management, this program aims to reduce marine debris and encourage all ocean users to bring all of their waste back to shore and dispose of it properly. CPAWS-NL aims to work with the communities to improve waste disposal and find solutions to make the community a clean space for the people and species that call it home. By identifying barriers that inhibit proper waste disposal, this program will help reduce the amount of waste in our oceans and along Newfoundland and Labrador’s diverse coastlines.

Goals and Objectives: 

  • Reduce marine debris
  • Increase education about marine debris
  • Find ways to reduce marine debris
  • Obtain pledges from N.L. ocean users to bring their garbage back to shore

Major Take-Aways: Now working with FGCAC, CPAWS-NL hopes to include more focus on ALDFG in regard to location, quantity and kinds. Currently, the major take-aways are the importance of increasing awareness of marine debris, returning all waste generated at sea to land for proper disposal, and helping harbour authorities find solutions for reducing debris in their own harbours.

Successes and Lessons Learned: S2S NL is relatively new. In early stages, the project installed garbage and recycling bins in Petty Harbour. However, due to funding constraints, this aspect of the project was ended after consultation with Clean NS. We now simply provide guidance, education and ideas, and work with the harbours to find and implement solutions. To date, there are 17 Ship-to-Shore Harbours, with more planned in the future. There have also been some great shoreline/harbour clean-ups too within some S2S harbours! Learning from other groups like Placentia Bay Ocean Debris Survey (PODS) and CLEAR, CPAWS-NL will be implementing microplastic trawls during harbour visits.

Notable Challenges: 

  • Financial constraints make it difficult to implement solutions (for example, not having funding to provide waste oil tanks and bins). Land waste management is the biggest challenge, as costs and regulations are not tailored for harbour communities.
  • As fishers are busy, it is challenging to get information from them about ghost gear locations. CPAWS-NL is working on getting information regarding wolffish bycatch for a shared project. Though fishers will talk, it is hard to get detailed information (coordinates, exact numbers, etc.). 
  • Enforcement is a challenge. As an ENGO, CPAWS-NL cannot give harbour authorities the power to enforce regulations against illegal dumping. Granting this authority would be a government decision – a point that we have often brought up. CPAWS-NL can only help the harbour authorities.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans – Ghost Gear Program

Location/Scope: Canada, with regional focuses

This ghost gear program is in development by DFO and includes the new Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution Program. DFO has established a national ALDFG group (Ghost Gear Program), with a representative from each DFO region. Phone calls every two weeks provide further direction.

Goals and Objectives: Currently focusing on understanding and decreasing ghost gear remaining at sea, as well as reducing marine plastics and waste.

Major Take-Aways: TBD

Successes and Lessons Learned: TBD

Notable Challenges: TBD

EnviroCulture Consulting – Recycling Fishing Rope and Net

Location/Scope: Stewiacke, Nova Scotia; and Atlantic Canada

This project challenge is in conjunction with DFO, funded primarily by Goodwood Plastic Products with grant funding from Innovative Solutions Canada. It aims to determine the viability of using end-of-life net and rope in plastic lumber.

Goals and Objectives: The goal is to blend net and rope into plastic lumber products to determine how this might improve/limit the various products’ flexibility. The objective is to manufacture and sell various plastic lumber products that incorporate rope and net. 

Major Take-Aways: It is possible to collect and recycle the majority of fishing plastics produced in Atlantic Canada and sell them back as a product.

Successes and Lessons Learned: A bit early too early to disclose results, but it looks promising.

Notable Challenges: Collecting clean supplies of net and rope and grinding the material can be quite challenging.

Fishermen and Scientists Research Society (FSRS) – Local ecological knowledge (LEK) to quantify [DH3] [AG4] and map ghost gear in Nova Scotia

Location/Scope: South and Eastern Shore, Nova Scotia – 100 km radius from Halifax

Currently, very little is known about the distribution and severity of ghost fishing – ghost gear continuing to catch marine species indiscriminately – in Nova Scotia. Therefore, the effect of ghost gear on Nova Scotia’s commercial and wild stocks, benthic habitats and economy is poorly understood. This pilot project is very important in addressing some of the knowledge gaps surrounding ghost gear quantity and remediation.

Goals and Objectives: This pilot project aims to use local ecological knowledge (LEK) to identify where, what and how much ghost gear is present in Nova Scotia. It will also look at barriers fishers face in recovering and disposing of ghost gear, and offer possible solutions.

Major Take-Aways: TBD

Successes and Lessons Learned: TBD

Notable Challenges: TBD

Fundy North Fishermen’s Association (FNFA) – Reducing Entanglement Threats Through Ghost Gear Removal: Expanding Lost Fishing Gear Retrieval Projects in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf Regions

Location/Scope: Bay of Fundy and Gulf Region

This three-year Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) Species at Risk stream project aims to reduce the threat of whale entanglements with fishing gear in Atlantic Canada through retrieving and preventing ghost gear. The project covers New Brunswick and Quebec, the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The project addresses the threat of fishing gear interactions to two species that are listed on Canada’s Species at Risk Act − the North Atlantic right whale (Endangered), which is a regional priority species for aquatic projects in the Atlantic; and the Atlantic population of the fin whale (Special Concern).  

Project activities include capacity-building activities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence region, such as translating best-practice materials into French and holding educational meetings with Gulf fishers. Other activities include surveying “hotspot” areas of ghost gear in the Southwest New Brunswick waters of the Bay of Fundy; and designing, building and using grapnels to retrieve ghost gear from hotspots. These activities will contribute to recovery strategies for the two targeted species at risk, by directly removing fishing gear entanglement threats to whales. They will also build capacity in the Gulf region to engage in future projects that aim at managing ghost gear. Project performance will be evaluated with measurable indicators, including the amount of gear retrieved and the longer-term uptake of regional ghost-gear initiatives in the future.

Goals and Objectives: Retrieve ghost gear in designated portions of the Bay of Fundy and collaborate with our counterparts in the Gulf region as they begin their own ghost-gear retrieval projects.

Major Take-Aways: 

  • With continued efforts, ghost gear can be eliminated or greatly reduced. This lessens the impact on marine life, and reduces the chances of area fishers losing additional gear to entanglement with ghost gear.
  • New ghost gear is created when lines are cut and gear is dragged. To prevent this, it’s vitally important to work with other organizations who are on the water. Various parties can agree to put cages on propellers, help each other avoid trap lines, and communicate when vessels have to tow through areas where there could potentially be gear.
  • It’s important to create ongoing awareness of the issues of ghost gear, through all forms of social media. People need to be educated about the dangers that entanglements pose to all marine life. They also need to know that deteriorating ghost gear on the ocean floor produces microplastics, which pose a danger to both marine life and humans. In addition, there is also the issue of ghost gear fishing – where lobsters and other crustaceans become trapped and cannot escape. Education on the importance of being good stewards of the oceans is an essential part of eliminating the threat of ghost gear for future generations.  

Successes and Lessons Learned: Fundy North has successfully been involved in ghost-gear retrieval since 2008, and won the first ever Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environments’ Industry Award for this initiative. In 2014, Fundy North was one of the first fishing industry organizations to become a member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI). As the organization was profiled on the GGGI website, a wide range of people learned about the importance of ghost-gear retrieval and Fundy North’s work. 

Fundy North’s fishers designed grapnels for both hard bottom/deeper water and softer bottom/shallower water. These fishers, and the grapnels they designed, were instrumental in clearing two areas of the Bay of Fundy (Saint John Harbour and Head Harbour Passage) of ghost gear. Area fishers immediately noticed the difference as they were no longer losing gear to snarls of ghost gear. 

This initial ghost-gear retrieval work spawned an additional Old Gear Retrieval Project, which aimed to create awareness of old gear and prevent the disposal of old gear at sea. This project was highly successful as well: hundreds of fathoms of rope and nets were repurposed, and hundreds of traps were recycled or repurposed. Fundy North created a manual for fishers on ghost-gear retrieval, as well as two videos – one on ghost-gear retrieval, the other on soft bottom grapnel designs and advice on grappling from the fisher who designed the grapnels.  These are all available for viewing on the FNFA website; the videos are also available in French and English on the FNFA YouTube page. Throughout the initial project, the fishers learned the best ways to grapple for ghost gear and the best equipment to use to help locate the gear – side-scan sonar. (Interviews with fishers also produce information about new areas of lost gear or snarls.) The need for patience was deemed to be the most important lesson learned when it came to actually grappling for the ghost gear.

Notable Challenges: Some of the most notable challenges involved locating the ghost gear. It required extreme patience to drag back and forth in a grid pattern to try to locate the gear. In some cases, the ghost gear had already been retrieved by other fishers, but not reported as retrieved. Once found, gear was often hard to snag, but the fishers persisted. It was also difficult to find ways to dispose of the old gear retrieved. The gear gathered from our Old Gear project – especially old traps – posed particular challenges. It took a lot of effort and research to find potential solutions to this problem.

Homarus Inc. – To facilitate coexistence between fisheries and species at risk in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence: Reduction of cordages during fishing, awareness and commitment within the community

Location/Scope: Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence

Homarus Inc. is a non-profit research and development organization created by the Maritime Fishermen’s Union (MFU) in 2001. Its mission is to develop tools to ensure the sustainability of the lobster resource and its fishery. With expertise in research and development, and in education and science popularization, combined with a historically close relationship with the fishing industry, Homarus proposed to actively participate in mitigating threats of human-related activities to the fishing industry and to species at risk. To do so, Homarus has started a four-year project whose objectives fall into three main components:

1) Technological innovations in the crab fishery to reduce the risk of entanglements due in part to the amount of ropes in the water column during fishing.

2) Training and sensitization of fishers and the general public on the ecology and behaviour of cetaceans and other at-risk species occupying the Gulf of St. Lawrence, responsible fishing, marine pollution, good fishing practices and ocean protection.

3) Implementation of a ghost-gear retrieval project in coastal waters with the lobster fishers.

Specifically, Homarus expects to continue efforts started in 2018 to eliminate vertical ropes from the crab fishery (Component 1). Component 2 is considered essential so that all efforts made by our scientists and participating fishers will be recognized by all fishing fleets. This will garner support for the important task of cleaning up the seafloor on a medium term. The legacy of this ambitious enterprise rests on the education of future generations and emerging fishers.

Goals and Objectives: The activities proposed in this project are consistent with recovery plans for at-risk species identified in the project area (right whale, fin whale, blue whale, great white shark, leatherback turtle). These activities are also intended to counter the threat that at-sea fishing gear – whether active or lost – poses to marine life. Protecting the right whale is a priority issue. Though less well documented, the threat to other at-risk species is equally real.

Major Take-Aways: TBD – The four-year project has just been funded, and the activities have not yet started.

Successes and Lessons Learned: TBD

Notable Challenges: 

  • Detecting/locating traps in coastal areas
  • Involving the community and the fishers in gear-retrieval effort

Huntsman Marine Science Centre – Debris Free Fundy

Location/Scope: Southwest New Brunswick

The #DebrisFreeFundy Project is an initiative at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre that aims to keep marine debris out of the Bay of Fundy. This is being accomplished through a rope collection, recycling and repurposing program, eco-friendly business acknowledgement programs, and shoreline clean-ups. Outreach/education initiatives in southwestern New Brunswick communities are informing the public about the importance of a healthy marine ecosystem.

Goals and Objectives: Minimize inputs and remove debris from the Bay of Fundy.

Major Take-Aways: Fishing rope removed from marine environment/Rope collection bins worked/More bins were requested during pilot period and ongoing. 20+ local businesses in the town of St. Andrews participating in the business acknowledgement programs and reducing single-use plastic consumption. 300+ school-aged youth reached through education and outreach initiatives.

Successes and Lessons Learned: 5+ tonnes of rope removed from marine environment and ongoing.

Notable Challenges: Removal and pick-up from bins/Other debris and garbage in bins/End of life recycling or extended producer responsibility (EPR) lacking in North America.

Memorial University  – Placentia Bay Ocean Debris Survey (PODS) 

Location/Scope: Placentia Bay, Newfoundland

The Placentia Bay Ocean Debris Survey (PODS) is a four-year program for the long-term monitoring of marine plastics in key sites around Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. The survey includes comprehensive repeat surveys of micro- and macro-plastics on shorelines, microplastics in surface waters, and macro-plastics in benthic environments. This project is jointly funded by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI).

Goals and Objectives: Establish a baseline understanding of marine plastic concentrations on shorelines, in surface waters and on the seafloor at various locations around Placentia Bay. This baseline will include high-resolution information on seasonal changes in marine plastic abundance and distribution.

Major Take-Aways: TBD

Successes and Lessons Learned: Collaborating with local communities to better understand the marine plastic landscape in their region by incorporating local knowledge into the project was a notable success. Providing citizen-science protocols that are accessible and adaptable to local environmental and cultural conditions made collaboration possible.

Notable Challenges: Adapting globally standardized protocols to Newfoundland shorelines that are characterized by coarse sediment and heavy seasonal changes, which fall outside standardized protocols. 

Merinov – Reduced the threat of ghost fishing to aquatic species at risk in snow crab fishing areas of the Gulf of St. Lawrence by recovering traps abandoned on the seabed

Location/Scope: Gulf of St. Lawrence

For many at-risk species, entanglements and collisions are major threats. Large animals can become entangled in vertical ropes that remain suspended in the water column. Although entanglement does not necessarily result in the direct death of the animal, it can have long-term negative physiological effects. Threats of entanglement have been clearly identified in the Recovery Plans for Species at Risk and/or the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessments.

Snow crab fishers lose traps each year. Since crab fishing has been practised for more than 30 years, it is estimated that several thousand traps rest on the seabed. These traps continue to fish, resulting in ghost fishing. In addition, with their rope remaining in suspension for several years, these traps continue to present a risk of entanglement for the target species.

Lost snow crab traps pose a threat to aquatic species. These traps must be retrieved from the seabed to eliminate this threat. The snow crab fishing areas reach depths of nearly 250 metres and more. Although the fishing grounds are well known in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the areas to be covered to recover lost traps are considerable. Moreover, it is not possible to proceed blindly by dragging a recovery vehicle. For these reasons, it is crucial to determine the precise location of the traps by means of adapted detection tools, and to recover the traps using gear adapted to the situation.

The project will develop a technology to detect and remove traps lost on the seabed. The objective is to develop an efficient method of gear recovery, transferable to industry and usable on board fishing boats. This gear will reduce the threats of entanglement and bycatch for marine species present, including aquatic species at risk.

Goals and Objectives: The general objective of the project is to carry out a campaign to recover lost traps in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and to transfer knowledge and technologies to the fishing industry. The project’s activities are divided into two parts: Detection and Recovery. The development of protocols for these two components will be carried out simultaneously during the first two years and will be improved in subsequent years, leading to the beginning of the cleaning campaign (years 3 and 4).

Major Take-Aways: TBD – The project has just been funded, and the activities have not yet started.

Successes and Lessons Learned: TBD

Notable Challenges: 

  • Capacity to detect/locate traps at great depths
  • Effectiveness of trap recovery: accuracy, speed, impact on the seabed
  • Ability to successfully transfer complex detection technologies to the industry

Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) – Ecology of baleen whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Location/Scope: Gulf of St. Lawrence

MICS has been conducting photo identification and biopsy studies on baleen whales in the St. Lawrence since 1979. MICS covers large areas in the GSL and holds the photo-ID catalogues of blue, fin and humpback whales for the region. Due to the large area covered, MICS comes across ghost gear every year in the course of its activities. This gear is reported to DFO, particularly in light of recent NARW activity in the GSL. MICS is also investigating how fishing gear affects the other baleen whale species. 

Goals and Objectives: Long-term monitoring of baleen whale population, including interactions with fishing gear.

Major Take-Aways: TBD

Successes and Lessons Learned: TBD

Notable Challenges: Obtaining the funding needed to be present on the water to actually locate the gear.

Prince Edward Island Herring Fishermen’s Association – 16G Gear Retrieval Project  

Location/Scope: Herring Fishing Area 16G in Eastern P.E.I. – Both North Lake and Fishermen’s Bank

This project annually removes gear in the HFA 16G herring fishery each fall. It is industry led, in collaboration with local DFO Conservation and Protection, and is solely funded by the herring fishers in HFA 16G PEI. Local fishers are hired to spend a given number of days searching for gear, and retrieving it if needed. Local fishers pay into a fund that is used to hire local leaders to assist with at-sea work.

Goals and Objectives: Remove lost or abandoned nets – both commercial nets from the fishery and lost bait nets from other fisheries – as well as any other gear that appears lost or discarded.  The aim is to remove gear and thus eliminate potential impact on marine species, as well as to maintain safety at sea for all local fishers and stakeholders utilizing this waterway.

Major Take-Aways: This project was initiated by local fishers and funded by fishers as they have seen value in this effort. 

Successes and Lessons Learned: Flexibility is important. Rather than focusing on commercial herring only, the project aims to remove anything that appears to be lost/discarded. The program relies on local fishers to report gear they witness on their travels because this encompasses other provinces. So, there is a level of trust with the leaders participating in the project.  If gear can be returned to fisher, it is. If parts of the gear can be saved (anchors, rope, etc.) and it is in good condition, the fisher hired gets to keep the gear.  

Notable Challenges: As the number of fishers in the commercial herring fishery has decreased substantially over the past five years, the number of days needed for any clean-up has decreased, as has the amount of gear used in the area. Gear that cannot be recycled is given to Island Waste Management.

Prince Edward Island Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association – LFA 24 Ghost Gear Clean-up

Location/Scope: Prince County, Prince Edward Island

This project has been going on for well over a decade, removing large amounts of ghost gear (mainly lost lobster traps) from the water in the western portion of LFA 24 through the volunteer collaboration with the Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association. In the past, occurrence has varied, but the clean-up now occurs annually. Other local fishing associations on P.E.I. have expressed interest in participating in an annual “post-season gear clean-up” through the coordination of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association.

Goals and Objectives: Remove ALDFG from the area.

Major Take-Aways: Great collaboration between industry and DFO Conservation and Protection. 

Successes and Lessons Learned: The relationship between DFO enforcement and leadership of the WGFA has been very important to this project coming to fruition and continuing to work well. The project is volunteer based, with local fishing industry leaders assisting in the search for and retrieval of lost gear. Other provinces have successfully dealt with the logistical challenges of working together effectively.

Notable Challenges: DFO is limited in staffing and resources, yet it is key that they continue participating in this project alongside the associations. It was noted that changing licence requirements and liability coverage were ongoing challenges that should be addressed by the next fishing season. Trap disposal has not been a big issue; most traps are returned to the fisher if they can be identified through tags.

Steveston Harbour Authority – Commercial Fishing Net Recycling

Location/Scope: British Columbia

Steveston Harbour Authority has completed a pilot project in which 18 tonnes of old nylon fishing net were collected and shipped to Aquafil to be recycled into ECONYL® nylon yarn. While this has been a great start, the project eventually had to be stopped due to financial challenges. A new sustainable program has been implemented as of January 2019, resulting in over 15 tonnes of nets being sent to a local recycling plant.

Goals and Objectives: Divert the amount of nylon fishing nets being buried by recycling end-of-life commercial fishing nets.

Major Take-Aways: The pilot project provided good insight into the logistical and financial challenges associated with collecting, preparing and shipping nets. Participants learned how to streamline the process to make it efficient and sustainable for everyone.

Successes and Lessons Learned: It is now understood how much material can be recovered from a full seine net, how much labour is required to strip the net from its other parts (cork line, bunt, lead line), and how to efficiently load a container to maximize the amount of net that can be sent to Aquafil’s regeneration plant in Slovenia in a single trip. The pilot project has taught us that shipping nets in containers overseas is not the most efficient or economical way of recycling this material.

Notable Challenges: Getting thousands of kilograms of net from all 454 harbour authorities in British Columbia to us for stripping and recycling.

T Buck Suzuki Foundation BC Lost Gear Knowledge Gathering

Location/Scope: British Columbia, Coastal Regions

Though many groups have been working to remove derelict gear from British Columbia’s waters, the scope of lost gear in the province is not yet understood.  T Buck Suzuki Foundation is working with B.C. commercial fishers to gather local knowledge about what, where, why, and how much fishing gear is lost. Data has been gathered through a series of workshops across the coast and follow-up dialogues with commercial fishers. T Buck Suzuki Foundation is gathering additional information on what fishers are doing, as individuals or associations, to avoid gear loss and prevent ghost fishing.

Goals and Objectives:

  • Assess the scope of gear loss in B.C.
  • Identify hotspots for lost fishing gear in B.C.
  • Understand the challenges unique to each fishery
  • Identify fishers interested in future gear-removal projects

Major Take-Aways: TBD

Successes and Lessons Learned: Fishers are open to sharing information and are keen to be involved in efforts to prevent and recover lost gear.

Notable Challenges: Given how large and varied B.C.’s fishing areas are, it has been difficult to make any generalizations about gear loss. Causes of gear loss vary drastically across the province, and include gear conflicts, bottom type, gear specifications, weather and tides. Best practices vary just as much, to the point where a strategy that reduces gear loss in one area could increase it elsewhere.