From manufacturing plastic lumber out of discarded fishing rope and nets, to retrieving lost gear from the fishing grounds, 11 projects are currently underway in Atlantic Canada to combat ocean pollution.

Two Nova Scotia businesses have received grants as part of the second phase of the domestic plastics challenge under the Innovative Solutions Canada program.

Ashored Innovations Inc. will receive $702,000 to design and build a low-cost, commercially viable and acoustically activated rope-less fishing system for use in the lobster and crab fisheries. The funding will also help Ashored Innovations to further develop their rope-less fishing system, which includes a rope re-spooler and user-friendly gear-tracking software for lobster and crab fisheries.

“Thanks to the funding, Ashored is able to keep our team working as we move to the next stage in the development of our Rope-on-Command (ROC) solution for use in the trap fisheries,” said Aaron Stevenson, Co-founder and CEO of Ashored Inc. in a press release.

“Ashored will be conducting R&D, developing prototypes and testing these new technologies with fish harvesters to ensure they are up to the standards needed to work reliably in the harsh ocean conditions common to Canada’s East Coast.”

Goodwood Plastic Products Ltd. will receive $475,000 to implement and increase production at their new manufacturing facility to turn end-of-life plastic fishing nets and ropes into plastic lumber products and to incorporate them into new pre-cast plastic products.

“This grant will enable us at Goodwood Plastics to invest in and scale up our manufacturing equipment to process and handle more end-of-life marine net and rope and provide a cost-effective, scalable solution to recycling these types of materials and give them a second life by being made into plastic lumber,” said Dan Chassie, owner of Goodwood Plastic Products. 

“Our plastic lumber is a safe, environmentally-friendly material that will outlast and outperform traditional lumber materials in wet, high-trafficked areas such as wharves, docks, marinas and harbours.”

Nine projects in Atlantic Canada are being funded under the $8.3-million Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution Program, referred to as the Ghost Gear Fund.

In New Brunswick, the Fundy North Fisherman’s Association will receive $96,495 for its two-year project that will “look to expand the repurposing capacity and build recycling capacity to manage end-of-life lobster traps in southwestern New Brunswick. In doing so, we can begin to address the existing gap around responsible disposal of lobster traps.”

The Maliseet Nation Conservation Council’s project, which will receive $276,600 in funding, “will focus on using SCUBA and surface-supply diving as an effective ghost-gear recovery method in the Bay of Fundy… We will work with COJO Diving and the Marine Debris Strategic Action Committee to develop safe and effective methods for removing ghost gear from known locations using diving.”

In Nova Scotia, CSR GeoSurveys Ltd. has been funded ($361,640) to do two projects; one in the Northumberland Straight and the other in the Bay of Fundy. An industry leader in the field of ocean mapping, the company will be working with industry partners on the two projects that will take place in Lobster Fishing Areas (LFAs) 26A, and 36 to 38 and “will focus on the identification, retrieval and disposal of ghost fishing gear from challenging areas within the Northumberland Strait” and “within the Bay of Fundy.”

The Cape Breton Fish Harvesters Association will be working on a one-year project ($68,310) that “will focus on the removal of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded gear in the areas that have been highlighted as a concern by local fish harvesters in LFA 27.”

In Southwestern Nova Scotia, Coastal Action ($432,299) will be working “collaboratively with industry, academia and government to prevent, reduce and assess impacts of ghost gear” in LFAs 33, 34 and 35 by  “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.”

The Eastern Nova Scotia Marine Stewardship Society will be conducting a project ($121,388) that includes “pilot studies of GPS-enabled smart buoy technology in the Maritimes, assessing its applicability across different fisheries and industries. Three fixed-gear wild-catch fisheries in the Maritimes have been identified as candidates for piloting the technology: lobster, snow crab and whelk. In addition, the technology will be used to track gear at mussel and scallop aquaculture operations.”

Based in Dartmouth, the 60-member Fishing Gear Coalition of Atlantic Canada ($352,500) will be building on the collaborative work started in 2018 on preventing and recovering end-of-life abandoned, lost and discarded fishing and aquaculture gear and developing sustainable solutions to retrieve and recycle these materials.

“Building on this work, our project team, in partnership with Cleanfarms, will collaborate with key stakeholders and rights holders to implement a self-sustaining product stewardship program for end-of-life fishing gear across Eastern Canada,” states the project description.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor) will receive $659,685 for the “harvester-driven initiative to recover ghost gear across Newfoundland and Labrador. These efforts will incorporate harvester expertise in gear re-use, port infrastructure and effective gear retrieval measures in order to mitigate ghost fishing and build capacity for the responsible disposal of fishing gear across the province. As a result of this project, FFAW-Unifor will develop training and educational material on gear retrieval best practices, designed to promote sustainable fisheries and the mitigation of ghost fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador into the future.”

The Petty Harbour Fisherman’s Cooperative will receive $381,571 to “do a grid search of the area from Cape St. Francis to Cape Pine” using multiple vessels equipped with chart plotters to search and clean up each grid. “All debris will be landed and stored at our facility in Petty Harbour until it is disposed of.”

Seven projects in British Columbia, four in Quebec and four international projects are also being financed under the Ghost Gear Fund. 

It is estimated more than eight million metric tons of plastic wind up in the ocean globally every year.

From July 18 to 20, 2019, DFO and the Canadian Coast Guard conducted a three-day ghost gear retrieval operation called Operation Ghost in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The operation focused on areas with concentrations of ghost gear, with more than 100 snow crab traps recovered and over nine kilometres of rope removed from the water.