Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Fishing Gear Coalition of Atlantic Canada (FGCAC) is looking for ideas for long-term solutions for responsibly managing end-of-life fishing gear.
According to the group, close to 250,000 lobster traps and more than 1,000 tonnes of fishing rope are replaced annually in Nova Scotia.
The non-profit organization, with support from Cleanfarms, is working with stakeholders to research, develop and implement long-term solutions for gear that is no longer safe or useful to fishers. They are also supported by Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Ghost Gear Fund and Divert NS.
They are looking for input from the public. A survey is located on their site and the group has planned virtual engagement sessions for February 17 and 18.
To access these sessions, or for more information, the group can be reached at email@example.com.
Rachel Kendall, the spokesperson for the group and an environmental specialist from First South, emphasized the importance of the project for the South Shore.
"The South Shore is where you have the largest fishing areas – LFA 33 and 34. It's especially important to help the fishers in these areas find solutions," she said, adding there are a few pilot projects happening in the province, but nothing has been solidified.
Although fishing and lobstering have been going on for generations, the gear used in the activities continues to evolve to last longer and with minimal disintegration. When it does expire or is no longer needed, its disposal creates an environmental issue.
"Back in the day, fishing gear was made out of biodegradable materials (wood, hemp, etc.) but in modern times comes modern tools," Kendall explained in an email. "Nowadays, fishing gear is made out of more durable materials like vinyl, steel and plastic which are not biodegradable."
Formed in November 2018, the FGCAC is a non-profit, non-governmental organization working to find sustainable solutions to end-of-life fishing and aquaculture gear throughout Atlantic Canada and beyond.
Its more than 30 members come from various backgrounds, including industry, government, Indigenous communities, academia and the public.
"The FGCAC was founded by a group of diverse stakeholders who recognize that the solutions we need requires all of us to work together," said Kendall. "By learning, understanding and working with stakeholders, the FGCAC supports our fishing communities and wants to help protect the environment and our fishing industries for generations to come."
The volunteer group is split into five sub-groups, all working towards the end result of finding solutions for the gear.
One group is looking at hot spot mapping, while another is working on improving the existing permitting process for gear retrieval on land and water. A third group is looking for best management practices for retrieving gear, while a fourth is looking at communications and how to spread the word about the issue.
The fifth group, of which Kendall is a part of, is looking at best ways to manage the end-of-life gear.
Last summer, her group conducted research in Nova Scotia to find out what the current infrastructure is for managing fishing gear. From that, it put a report together supporting the group's research and outlining the next steps in the project. The report can be found on the organization's website: www.fgcac.org.