Find and recover “ghost” fishing gear? There’s an app made in Canada for that
The federal Department of Fisheries tries to provide marine animals and ocean ecosystems with a chance to survive and thrive.
“Since 2019, we’ve actually removed 224 tonnes of gear from the ocean,” Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said Wednesday in support of an announcement that the ghost gear program in the ocean would be reinforced with the launch of a new recovery. system.
“It’s a huge deal to have this equipment there, but we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for recovery and that’s why this new tool we’re launching is so exciting,” said Jordan, the MP for South Shore-St. Daisies.
Ghost gear is lost, abandoned or derelict fishing gear and is one of the leading causes of marine pollution.
“It’s mostly inshore commercial fishermen, lobster gear, whatever is lost in a season and it happens quite often,” Jordan said.
The $8.3 million ghost gear program was launched in 2019 and over two years removed 224 tonnes of used gear from Canadian and international waters, with 159 million tonnes leaving the Atlantic Ocean . During more than 185 salvage trips, more than 1,300 gear units, including 27,000 feet of rope, were recovered.
The federal government’s spring budget provided an additional $10 million over two years to fund the program, which has created more than 300 jobs.
On Wednesday, the Minister of Fisheries announced a new online system that makes it easier for commercial fishermen to report their lost fishing gear.
The new fishing gear reporting system allows commercial fishers to easily enter a description of their lost gear, the cause of the loss and its location from any online device. All commercial fishers in Canada are required to report lost fishing gear to the Department.
“What happens is if a fisherman loses their gear, they have to download a form, fill it out, scan it and send it back to DFO so we have an idea of where the gear is, “Jordan explained how the equipment is currently plotted.
“We have developed an application. It’s in real time, they open it, they have their own account and they say where (the lost material) is. This allows us to more accurately track where equipment is, so it’s easier to retrieve.
The new app will provide the department with more accurate and timely data on where equipment loss is most common, as well as the most common causes of equipment loss. Much of the lost equipment is returned to its owner.
“Of the 224 tonnes we’ve taken out of the ocean, 101 tonnes have already been returned to fishermen,” Jordan said. “It’s expensive, some of that equipment, so they’re actually happy to salvage a lot of it. We are working together with (fishermen) to make sure we are doing everything we can to help them as well. »
Jordan said when funds were allocated in 2019, the program was quickly oversubscribed with people wanting to participate.
“We have a team that we work with,” she said. “This year, for example, a number of organizations applied for the funding. They work with the industry, they go out off season, on lobster boats, captains often know where the gear is and they go and they work to get it back.
The minister said it could become a competition between fishing boat captains to see who can salvage the most gear.
“It’s not just about recovering, it’s also about finding ways to keep us from losing material,” Jordan said. “It’s also about how best to find out what’s going on with the equipment when we lose it. These are all longer term issues, but it’s exciting to have the funding available to be able to do these programs.
Jordan said another part of the funding is intended to develop programs and technologies capable of solving marine problems such as whale entanglement.
“I attended a gear summit just before the pandemic hit and a lot of people in the industry are working really hard to come up with things like a quick break rope, easy release, so if it’s there’s a tangle, it’s easy to get the equipment (detached) from the animal,” Jordan said. “Those are all things we’re working on with industry and helping to fund some of that research.”
The minister said the unsalvaged gear is ocean trash, something that doesn’t need to be there.
“Our oceans are so, so important to us as coastal peoples. They provide our livelihoods, it’s tourism, it’s recreation and we need to take better care of them.
Jordan said Canada is a world leader in ghost gear recovery.
“Ghost equipment isn’t just a problem in Canada, it’s a problem everywhere,” Jordan said. “My counterparts around the world say, tell us about your ghost gear, how does it work, what do you do?”