A 2016 study by the World Economic Forum identified the breakdown in the global plastic system: 32% of the 78 million tonnes of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans, which is the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute. With 640,000 tonnes of which being abandoned fishing gear.
Lost or discarded fishing gear, also know as ghost gear, can stay in the ocean for hundreds of years. Species such as whales, turtles, sharks and fish get entangled and killed by ghost gear.
In a concrete effort to address this challenge, Darren Fisher, Member of Parliament for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and Andy Fillmore, Member of Parliament for Halifax, announced a new gear retrieval contribution program that will provide up to €7.5M to assist environmental groups, Indigenous communities, the aquaculture industry, and coastal communities to find and retrieve harmful ghost gear from the ocean and dispose of it responsibly.
Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said: “Our government has made fighting plastic pollution a top priority. Just a few months ago, the Government of Canada announced that it will ban harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021. Today’s actions build on that commitment. Removing harmful ghost fishing gear from the oceans will support a healthy ocean environment and contribute to the economic resilience of Canada’s coastal and rural communities.”
The Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution Program will also support fish harvesters to acquire new clean technologies to reduce gear loss. This new program is one of many actions announced under the Government of Canada’s plan to combat plastic pollution and ghost gear in the environment. It is designed to address the entire spectrum of issues surrounding ghost gear, including prevention, mitigation and disposal. To further address ghost gear in the oceans, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will host a Gear Innovation Summit in February 2020, which will include discussions on technological solutions to prevent ghost fishing gear from entering the oceans in the first place.
With the longest coastline in the world and one-quarter of the world’s freshwater, Canada has a unique responsibility – and opportunity – to lead in reducing plastic pollution. From launching the Ocean Plastics Charter at the 2018 G7 Summit to signing the Global Ghost Gear Initiative to investing in new Canadian technologies that turn plastic waste into valuable resources, we are doing just that. Together, we can make our economy stronger and take an important step toward protecting wildlife and the places Canadians love.