Ghost Gear Retrieval Project
In 2008, the Fundy North Fishermen’s Association began a project to identify and retrieve ‘ghost gear' (gear lost at sea) from the Bay of Fundy. Since 2008, we have headed a ghost gear retrieval program to target the retrieval of derelict 'ghost' traps that, once lost at sea, continue to fish, pose navigational hazards, pollute the environment, and cause entanglement risks to marine mammals, such as whales. Our fishermen have gone from identifying the need for mitigating ghost gear and developing grapnel equipment to the successful completion of a retrieval project. From 2008 to 2015, a great deal of ghost gear was retrieved from the waters of the Bay of Fundy. Fishermen designed a grapnel to remove ghost gear from waters and dispose of it responsibly. In doing so, this reduces navigational and ecosystem hazards in the water. The two main sites for this project were Saint John Harbour and Head Harbour Passage (located between Deer Island and Campobello Island).
In the Saint John Harbour and Head Harbour Passage, fishermen removed over 1000 lost lobster traps and other marine debris. As an organization, we are committed to limiting the impact of our fishery on the marine environment. A big part of this for our fishermen is ensuring gear loss is as limited as humanly possible. Of course, sometimes gear loss happens; storms can create conditions for gear to be lost, but many of the other causes are preventable. Lobster traps are lost primarily due to gear conflicts with neighbouring marine industries and on Canada's east coast, the salmon aquaculture industry and commercial shipping industry are most commonly involved in fishing gear conflicts. In addition to retrieving lost gear, FNFA is working closely to engage neighbouring marine industries in dialogue about ghost gear prevention.
A number of new rules and protocols have been put in place in Saint John Harbour that have significantly reduced gear loss due to ship traffic. Work is ongoing with the salmon aquaculture industry to develop protocols to reduce fishing gear loss. Fundy North continues to work on educational campaigns aimed at both fishermen and workers in neighbouring marine industries. In our current and future work, we are looking to further identify hot spots for gear loss, refine our grapnel design and expand our work towards prevention and repurposing old gear.
This project continues today, with fishermen identifying new areas where snarls may exist and where higher incidences of gear loss occurs.
For more information, please see below for our ghost gear manual detailing our ghost gear retrieval efforts and our collaboration with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.