Mahone Bay conservation charity secures funding to tackle ghost gear problem

by Keith Corcoran

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is giving a Mahone Bay-based charity a six-figure sum over the next two years to tackle the challenges of getting abandoned or lost fishing gear, such as lines and nets, out of South Shore area waters.

The conservation advocacy organization Coastal Action receives $226,778 in the first year, and $205,521 in the second year of the two-year project.

"We will be implementing waste management systems for responsible disposal of end-of-life gear, retrieving ghost gear from priority areas, and conducting an impact assessment of ghost gear during retrieval," reads project information provided by the federal government.

"This project will work collaboratively with industry, academia, and government to prevent, reduce, and assess impacts of ghost gear on the South Shore of Nova Scotia [Lobster Fishing Areas 33, 34, and 35 – Nova Scotia only] from July 2020 to March 2022."

The work also involves ongoing awareness campaigns.

"This type of retrieval hasn't happened in Nova Scotia and most places in Atlantic Canada. So this is really just an estimate at this point," Alex Goodman, of Coastal Action, the project's coordinator, explained to CBC News. "I think anything that we remove from the water and anything that we can pilot for recycling is a huge win."

Ottawa recently announced 26 entities would get a total of $8.3 million to clean up oceans of so-called ghost fishing gear. Coastal Action is the sole entity out of Lunenburg or Queens counties to be awarded cash from the Ghost Gear Fund.

"We can't have a healthy ocean or a strong blue economy if our waters are severely polluted by plastic," South Shore-St. Margaret's MP, Bernadette Jordan, the federal government's Fisheries and Oceans minister, said in a statement. "The overwhelming interest in the Ghost Gear Fund demonstrates that Canadians share this priority and want to be a part of the solution."

Ottawa calls ghost gear a major aspect of marine litter around the globe, and one of the deadliest forms of plastic debris, posing a serious environmental risk and a danger to fishing stocks as well as marine life in general.

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