Language selection

Search

Fishing Interactions Priority Threat

Map of Canada showing the general area where priority marine threats occur in the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Fishing Interactions Priority Threat

Marine fisheries take place throughout the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and overlap with the distribution of many species at risk found throughout these areas. Threats related to fishing interactions that can impact marine species at risk include entrapment or entanglement in active or lost fishing gear (also known as ghost gear), as well as being caught as bycatch. Entrapment and entanglement are the primary concerns for marine mammals, Leatherback Sea Turtles and large marine fishes, while smaller marine fishes, molluscs and Loggerhead Sea Turtles are at the greatest risk for being caught as bycatch. Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk (CNFASAR) is supporting a number of projects that aim to reduce the threat of fishing interactions on marine species at risk.

Conservation efforts currently underway

Reducing the threat of fishing interactions to marine species at risk cannot be achieved without the cooperation, engagement and stewardship of commercial fishers and Indigenous communities. For instance, Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada) Inc. has conducted a project in Pikialasorsuaq, or North Water Polynya (area of year-round open water surrounded by sea-ice cover) to facilitate discussions between Inuit leadership to develop a management plan on the future use and conservation of the Pikialasorsuaq area. This project aims to undertake the initial planning and partnership development to best position the next steps for future projects with communities in the Pikialasorsuaq and develop a plan for species at risk that is embedded in a larger overall management plan.

A project led by Oceans North is fostering collaboration between fisheries stakeholders in Atlantic Canada, including fisheries scientists, fisheries managers, First Nations and other fishers to identify effective measures that could be put in place to recover multiple at-risk marine fish species. Through a series of workshops, this project is providing a forum for discussion among stakeholders to evaluate the success of current conservation measures, exchange knowledge across sectors, identify opportunities to adopt new best practices and develop a shared path forward.

A project in Newfoundland and Labrador led by the Quebec-Labrador Foundation is promoting the protection of marine species at risk through outreach and stewardship. Through workshops, youth education campaigns, a communications campaign and dockside dialogues with over 300 commercial harvesters in 100 ports, this project is generating support for recovery activities that will reduce threats to species at risk caused by fisheries interactions. Additionally, this project is minimizing the threat of plastic debris ingestion and fishing gear entanglement by installing collection boxes for bait box liners at fishing stations.

Making information on species at risk accessible to key stakeholders and the public is essential in building widespread support and informing effective recovery actions. A project led by the Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is accomplishing this by creating an online map of special marine areas in the province, which highlights species at risk, their habitat, threats and other educational information. This map is informed by data gathered from workshops with a variety of groups including scientists, academia, government, non-governmental organizations, Indigenous groups and fishers.

Reduction of threats from fishing interactions on marine species at risk can be achieved through the development and adoption of new fishing technologies. Several CNFASAR funded projects are developing and testing new fishing equipment that is less hazardous to aquatic species. For instance, Homarus Inc. is conducting a project in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to implement technological innovations in the snow crab fishery to prevent entanglement of marine mammals and turtles in vertical ropes. Other project elements include establishing an alliance of snow crab fishers to promote best practices, conducting educational activities for youth in coastal communities, as well as mapping and retrieving lost gear.

The Canadian Wildlife Federation is working with fishers operating in Atlantic Canadian waters to develop standard methods for evaluating ropeless fishing gear and testing ropeless technologies. The project also includes workshops to create a dialogue among fishers and Indigenous communities to share information about fisheries, species at risk and their interactions. The project is also conducting surveys to gather information on the distribution and health of species at risk in the outer Bay of Fundy, which will be used to inform additional recovery actions.

Entanglement in ghost gear, which is fishing gear that has been lost or discarded, is a major threat to marine species at risk in areas where fisheries are present. To address this issue, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada, in collaboration with NunatuKavut Community Council and the Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland, has initiated a project to reduce the threat of ghost gear on species in the Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area. This project involves removing ghost gear from the area, collecting Indigenous Knowledge on practices concerning ghost gear and identifying more sustainable gear practices.

Another project to reduce the threat of ghost gear is being led by Merinov. The aim of the project is to use innovative technology, such as sonar detection and underwater vehicles, to detect and retrieve ghost traps in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This project is also sharing knowledge with fishers and developing a best practices guide to minimize trap losses in the fishing industry.

Data collection is essential to inform effective recovery actions for aquatic species at risk. Two CNFASAR funded projects focus on data collection and monitoring activities to improve our ability to address the threat of fisheries interactions. The Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance is leading a project along the Central Coast of British Columbia to collect data on Yelloweye Rockfish and other vulnerable rockfish species, which are important species in First Nations food, social and ceremonial fisheries. This project is assessing the status of rockfish populations, developing and implementing monitoring plans and engaging Indigenous fishers to balance conservation requirements with the rights of Indigenous communities to access these fish populations for food, social and ceremonial purposes.

Another data collection project conducted by Ocean Wise Conservation Association focuses on protecting the Killer Whale along the Central Coast of British Columbia. This project uses photogrammetry to determine the health status of Killer Whale populations to inform management decisions for Chinook Salmon, the primary food source for Southern Resident Killer Whales. Activities are also focused on identification of areas that would benefit from habitat restoration to mitigate reduced Chinook Salmon abundance.

Many projects involve engaging and collaborating with commercial fishers and Indigenous communities to develop strategies to balance the conservation and protection of marine species at risk with fishing operations. By addressing the threats associated with fishing interactions on marine species at risk and establishing best practices for fisheries, the CNFASAR funded projects are helping to make Canada’s fishing industry more sustainable.

Learn more about projects to address this threat

Special marine areas in Newfoundland and Labrador interactive online platform

Special marine areas in Newfoundland and Labrador interactive online platform

Recipient: Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter (CPAWS-NL)

Map of Newfoundland and Labrador. See text that follows
An example of the Map’s potential: highlighting layers of data to better understand their relationship

Project goal: This three-year project is building upon two editions of the “Special Marine Areas in Newfoundland and Labrador” guide produced by CPAWS-NL. Using this guide’s wealth of knowledge, outside sources, a workshop, and on-going research, CPAWS-NL is creating a “Special Marine Areas in Newfoundland and Labrador Interactive Online Map” (SMA Interactive Map). The SMA Interactive Map highlights the eco-regions of the province (as well as the 140 special areas highlighted within the guide), each region’s species (with an emphasis on species at risk), threats (focusing on fishery interactions, physical and acoustic disturbances, and shipping), protections currently in place, climate change threats (e.g. sea level rise) and other features that helps to create an overall picture of the ecosystem.

The SMA Interactive Map aims to become an effective user-friendly outreach, educational, and decision-making tool for an array of users including: (1) National, Provincial and Municipal Governments; (2) academia and researchers; (3) ocean industries; and (4) the general public. Additionally, this map aims to be a useful tool to those organizations carrying out Marine Spatial Planning initiatives for Newfoundland and Labrador and will create an opportunity for outreach and education for all users.

Defining Terms:

$219,920

Time Frame:

3 years

Species at risk that benefit from this project:

Reducing threats to aquatic species at risk caused by fishing interactions in Newfoundland waters

Reducing threats to aquatic species at risk caused by fishing interactions in Newfoundland waters

Recipient: Quebec-Labrador Foundation

photo
Quinn Parker teaches youth about wolffish (photo by Alexa Schubak)
photo
Alexa Schubak teaches youth about reducing plastic marine waste (photo by Quinn Parker)

Project goal: This four-year project aims to address the threat of fishing interactions and to contribute to the recovery of regional priority marine species at risk. This is being done by raising awareness of the threats to aquatic species at risk caused by bycatch mortality and fishing interactions caused by gear entanglements and harmful ingestion or pollution caused by marine debris, particularly fishing-related debris and plastics.

The project is raising awareness and addressing these threats by means of outreach and education including focus group meetings to encourage local buy-in, dockside dialogue with over 300 commercial harvesters in 100 ports, installation of collection boxes for bait box liners at fishing stations, a communications campaign that draws heavily on utilizing social media and informational products and 25 educational presentations per year to youth across the Province.

The project will produce and distribute informational placemats and motivational video clips that promote best practices such as live release of wolffish and reduction of plastic waste in the ocean.

Fund Allocation:

$654,112

Time Frame:

4 years

Species that benefit from this project

Media announcement:

Government of Canada introduces new, additional measures to protect the North Atlantic right whale

Using adaptive management to reduce fishing pressure on Golden Cod near the Gilbert Bay MPA

Using adaptive management to reduce fishing pressure on Golden Cod near the Gilbert Bay MPA

Recipient: WWF Canada

photophoto

William’s Harbour (Photo credit: Elizabeth Moore)

Project goal: The goal of this four-year project is to mitigate the impacts of ghost gear (i.e. fishing gear lost at sea) catch and by-catch on Golden cod and other vulnerable species at risk within and adjacent to the Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area (MPA), as well as measure the effectiveness of shifting fish harvesters from gillnets to more sustainable cod-fishing gear adjacent to the Gilbert Bay MPA.

To mitigate the impacts of ghost gear and by-catch, the project aims to increase sustainable fishing practices (e.g. cod pots, cod traps) for Northern cod, reducing the use of gillnets and to remove ghost gear to reduce unintended fishing mortality. Specific activities include: (1) monitoring and reporting on the use of lower-impact fishing gear to demonstrate effectiveness; (2) identifying and determining feasibility and consulting on innovative options for more sustainable gear practices; (3) characterizing and assessing impacts of ghost gear in the study area; (4) gathering Indigenous knowledge related to local practices and perceptions concerning ghost gear; (5) the retrieval of any discarded gear; (6) investigating options for local recycling mechanisms (e.g., creating new products), gear disposal and storage for end of life and recovered fishing nets; and (7) developing and sharing solution-oriented education and outreach tools to build local expertise and capacity.

Fund Allocation:

$368,180

Time Frame:

4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Reducing mortality and serious injury to marine species-at-risk from entanglement in fishing gear

Reducing mortality and serious injury to marine species-at-risk from entanglement in fishing gear

Recipient: Canadian Wildlife Federation

photophoto

Deploying fishing gear for testing

Project goal: This four-year project contributes to the recovery of aquatic species at risk by reducing the likelihood of species at risk becoming entangled in fishing gear in Canadian waters. The project takes place in the Atlantic Canadian waters surrounding New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and southeastern Quebec.

Project objectives include: fisher-led development and evaluation of fishing technology that will reduce entanglements, involvement of fishers and Indigenous communities in active roles that reduce the threat of entanglement, and improved knowledge of the distribution, health and entanglement risks of marine species at risk within Canadian waters.

The project aims to prevent entanglements from occurring by facilitating the elimination of fixed-gear entanglement threat (i.e., ropeless gear) and, as such, contribute to the recovery of all species at risk species that are sensitive to rope entanglement.

Fund Allocation:

$1,325,000

Time Frame:

4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Media announcement:

Government of Canada introduces new, additional measures to protect the North Atlantic right whale

Building the safety net for at risk marine fish: Towards stewardship and regime changes in fisheries and fisheries management

Building the safety net for at risk marine fish: Towards stewardship and regime changes in fisheries and fisheries management

Recipient: Oceans North

photo
Materials on display at project workshop
photo
Materials produced for project workshops

Project goal: This three-year project establishes a new baseline for the implementation of management measures with the goal of improving population recovery for at risk marine fish species. The greatest manageable threat to these marine fish is fishing, either directed or as bycatch.

Additionally, this project increases knowledge sharing and transfer, creates new relationships and builds new capacities. These will reduce barriers to implementing universal recovery actions that will benefit multiple species of at-risk marine fish.

Fund Allocation:

$375,000

Time Frame:

3 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Facilitating the coexistence between fishing and species at risk in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence: reduction of ropes during fishing, awareness and community involvement

Facilitating the coexistence between fishing and species at risk in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence: reduction of ropes during fishing, awareness and community involvement

Recipient: Homarus Inc.

photo
Experimental Traps
photo
Display coexistence fishermen/right whale at the Homarus Ecocentre.

Project goal: This four-year project aims to mitigate the threats related to fishing gear, both the vertical ropes used for crab fishing as well as the presence of ghost gear (i.e. fishing gear lost at sea).

This project is divided into 5 main activities: (1) implement technological innovations to reduce and eliminate ropes in the water column during crab fishing; (2) develop tools to promote awareness and education in coastal communities on the recovery of species at risk; (3) establish a Fishermen’s Alliance that will work according to a previously developed code of conduct for aquatic species at risk; (4) find methods of detecting and recovering lost gear; and (5) raise awareness and educate in coastal communities related to lost gear.

The creation of technological innovations and the promotion of education and awareness among fishers and the general public will create a lasting legacy for understanding of the recovery requirements of at risk marine mammals and other marine species at risk, responsible fishing, and marine pollution.

Fund Allocation:

$1,875,000

Time Frame:

4 years

Species at risk that benefit from this project:

Media announcement:

Government of Canada introduces new, additional measures to protect the North Atlantic right whale

Reducing threats to aquatic species at risk in snow crab fishing areas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence by recovering abandoned traps from the seabed

Reducing threats to aquatic species at risk in snow crab fishing areas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence by recovering abandoned traps from the seabed

Recipient: Merinov

photo
Testing of model recovery equipment, December 2019
photo
A snow crab trap with its rope suspended in the water column, detected with an Edgetech 272-TD analog side scan sonar

Project goal: This four-year project is aimed at developing a technology to detect and retrieve abandoned crab traps from the seabed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The goal is to develop equipment that is effective for recovering fishing gear and can be transferred to the fishing industry to be used on board fishing vessels. This recovery equipment will reduce the risk of entanglement and bycatch for all marine species present in the area, including those that are at risk.

In the long term, this project will lead to the adoption of new technologies for trap recovery and waste management. Fishers will be trained in how to use these technologies to find abandoned traps. In addition, as part of a joint project carried out in collaboration with Homarus Inc., tools will be developed to raise awareness of the threat posed by ocean waste and the risk of entanglement associated with lost or abandoned fishing gear. These tools will provide fishers with information on how to prevent and mitigate these threats. In the years to come, these individuals will become ambassadors for reducing the threat to marine species at risk from lost fishing gear.

Fund Allocation:

$1,181,016

Time Frame:

4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Media announcement:

Government of Canada introduces new, additional measures to protect the North Atlantic right whale

Pikialasorsuaq implementation – Planning for community capacity and Inuit-led monitoring of species at risk

Pikialasorsuaq implementation – Planning for community capacity and Inuit-led monitoring of species at risk

Recipient: Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada) Inc.

Project goal: This one-year project involves facilitating discussions between Inuit leadership to develop a management plan on the future use and conservation of the Pikialasorsuaq area. This project involved the initial planning steps to best position future projects with communities in the Pikialasorsuaq and develop a plan for species at risk that is embedded in a larger overall management plan.

Fund Allocation:

$11,500

Time Frame:

1 year

Species at risk that benefit from this project:

Ecological research by First Nations to promote the recovery of Yelloweye and other rockfishes in Pacific Canada

Ecological research by First Nations to promote the recovery of Yelloweye and other rockfishes in Pacific Canada

Recipient: Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance

Project goal: This four-year project continues with, and expands on, a research project initiated in 2013 to find solutions to threats to aquatic species at risk from fishing activities. As some of these species at risk are key to Indigenous traditional diets, the project addresses the interconnected issues of biodiversity conservation and the cultural significance of marine resources. The work is being conducted in the Central Coast of British Columbia which is home to the four First Nations spearheading this project: Wuikinuxv, Nuxalk, Kitasoo/Xai'xais and Heiltsuk.

The project activities include: (1) collection of data related to habitat quality and monitoring of age, size and relative abundance of Yelloweye and other rockfishes inside and outside Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs); (2) co-development and implementation of a monitoring program for fisher compliance in RCAs in partnership with the Coastal Guardian Watchmen and the Coastal Stewardship Network; (3) engagement with Indigenous fishers harvesting for food, social and ceremonial (FSC) purposes to co-develop and implement a sampling program of their landings; and (4) outreach related to our research and its conservation implications with First Nation communities of the Central Coast.

The research conducted within this project fills important knowledge gaps and seeks to improve the design and monitoring of the protections provided by the existing RCA system. It will also contribute to the Marine Protected Area Network planning and monitoring by federal, First Nation, and provincial partners, including the Northern Shelf Bioregion. Additionally, the work with Food, Social, Ceremonial (FSC) fishers and the outreach and capacity-building activities in First Nation communities increases Indigenous involvement in the conservation of aquatic species at risk.

Fund Allocation:

$1,859,384

Time Frame:

4 years

Species at risk that benefit from this project:

Building on 30 Years of Conservation-based Research to Mitigate Threats to at-risk Marine Mammal Populations

Building on 30 Years of Conservation-based Research to Mitigate Threats to at-risk Marine Mammal Populations

Recipient: Ocean Wise Conservation Association

Project goal: This four-year project is addressing two priority marine threats to aquatic species at risk in the coastal waters of British Columbia: physical and acoustic disturbance and fishing interactions. To do this, the project will first improve the WhaleReport Alert System, which is a tool that shares real-time whale sightings with commercial vessels to prompt them to minimize disturbance to nearby whales. This system is being expanded further north along the BC coast to increase the number of sightings-reports in the waters surrounding Haida Gwaii. This project aims to reduce the risk of acoustic disturbance and ship strikes for marine mammals and reptiles.

Additionally, this project is working understand the impacts of fisheries on the Resident Killer Whales’ declining food supply through the expansion of drone-based aerial photogrammetry studies from Vancouver Island’s northeastern coast to pods that use more northerly waters along BC’s Central Coast from Johnstone Strait to Northern Haida Gwaii. The expansion of these studies aims to bridge the knowledge gaps related to the impacts of fisheries on the nutritional status and health of Killer Whales and can be used to inform management decisions for Chinook Salmon, the primary food source of the Southern Resident Killer Whale.

Fund Allocation:

$440,000

Time Frame:

4 years

Species at risk that benefit from this project:

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:
Date modified: