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Ghost Gear Retrieval Project

As the largest industry in Eastern Canada, the lack of access to means of recycling our rope and traps means that a significant volume of all of Canada’s fishing gear is never recycled. Seafood is one of Canada’s largest seafood exports, totaling $2.5 billion dollars annually. If we consider that in the Maritimes region alone, some 6,300 lobster harvesters are fishing 1.6 million lobster traps every year, with limited means for those traps and rope products to be reused or recycled, we’re talking about a substantial amount of end-of-life gear that has nowhere to go.


The main goal of our Ghost Gear Retrieval (GGR) project is to further expand the capacity, opportunity, and access to recycle/repurpose fishing gear in southwest NB; specifically rope and lobster traps from Region 4 of New Brunswick and the LFA 36 lobster fishing district. By expanding the repurposing and recycling capacity for lobster traps and rope in southwestern New Brunswick, we can begin to address the existing gap around responsible disposal. As things stand now, each year this gear ends up going to a landfill, being stockpiled, or back into the environment. Traps and rope make up a significant source of the derelict gear generated by the Canadian fisheries sector. Up to this point, the problem of responsible disposal for these items has been wrongly overlooked. This project will directly help to address a crucial pillar of the ghost gear issue, generating capacity for responsible disposal.


This project also focuses on providing tools to further support ghost gear retrieval efforts in LFA 36. This includes conducting further work to continue cleanup initiatives targeting derelict aquaculture nets in key fishing areas, expanding community capacity for addressing derelict gear, and expanding ties to recyclers within and outside of NB. We are engaging communities in leading trap and gear cleanups to further enhance the trap pickup program which was a resounding success in 2021. In this way, we hope to gain more participation and interest from communities that have strong tourism economies and that are also fishing communities, such as Deer Island and Campobello Island, which are areas where recycling and space for derelict gear is particularly challenging. 


In addition, this project supports the Species at Risk initiative through its ability to effectively reduce the risk of entanglement to at-risk marine mammals, such as the North Atlantic Right Whale, by conducting ghost gear retrieval, as marine mammals can be highly impacted through the increased risk of mortality from ghost gear; the Zero Plastic Waste Initiative through the project’s goal of increasing waste collection and responsible disposal of ocean plastics (particularly fishing rope); and finally, of the Circular Economy initiative as our project seeks to divert fishing gear out of the waste stream by recycling, upcycling, and repurposing end-of-life fishing gear.


We will have the opportunity to upcycle the ghost gear retrieved from ongoing retrieval activities through this project’s focus on responsible disposal, and our intent is to see us ultimately able to absorb existing ghost gear and mitigate future ghost gear from being generated by directing these types of waste into responsible disposal streams. Until harvesters have access to responsible disposal options for lobster traps, we will continue to face a major issue in addressing the ghost gear generated by the Canadian fisheries sector. By not having a place to put their old traps, we inevitably lead harvesters to handle derelict traps irresponsibly.


The GGR project is building upon years of FNFA’s Ghost Gear Program and scaling up our expertise into the realm of responsible disposal, and it also is being complimented by our work on ghost gear retrieval being undertaken from 2020-2025 in partnership with New Brunswick Power-Lepreau Nuclear Station. 

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