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Combatting marine litter: Ghost gear

One of the biggest threats to our oceans is marine litter and in particular, ghost fishing gear. Ghost gear refers to any fishing equipment or fishing-related litter that has been abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded and is some of the most harmful and deadly debris found in oceans

What are we doing about it

The Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution Program (Ghost Gear Fund) encourages Canadians to take actions to reduce plastic in the marine environment. The Ghost Gear Fund supports projects to:

  • retrieve or dispose of ghost gear
  • invest in innovative gear technology
  • encourage international leadership

Along with the Ghost Gear Fund, we have been working with industry on ongoing basis where fish harvesters are being encouraged to undertake ghost gear removal initiatives, in conjunction with local fishery enforcement officers. We are also working to expand current mandatory reporting requirements for lost gear to more fisheries.

Our first Gear Innovation Summit took place in February 2020, and included a trade show focused on technological solutions to mitigate ghost gear. We will also be collaborating with industry partners to pilot potential projects in order to reduce and mitigate impacts of ghost gear.

Our efforts are also in support of international commitments made by Canada through the G7, the United Nations and the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), among others.

Operation Ghost

From July 18 to 20, 2019, DFO and the Canadian Coast Guard  conducted a three-day ghost gear retrieval operation in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This operation focused on areas with concentrations of ghost gear.

The goal was to remove as much lost fishing gear as possible from the Gulf of St. Lawrence in order to help prevent entanglements to marine mammals, including right whales, and increase the sustainability of Canada’s Atlantic fisheries.

We recovered over 100 snow crab traps removing over 9 km of rope from the water.

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