STRAIT AREA: Each year, more than eight million metric tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans.

Lost, abandoned and derelict fishing nets and commercial fishing gear, known as ghost gear, as well as plastic waste from aquaculture, are major contributors to the plastic debris problem.

Recent studies indicate that ghost fishing gear may make up 46 to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced $8.3 million in funding to 22 projects in Canada earlier this month through the Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution Program, or Ghost Gear Fund, which encourages Canadians to take action to reduce plastic in the marine environment.

With funding of $3 million over the next two years, 10 of those projects are slated for Atlantic Canada, including two in relation to Cape Breton.

One of the organizations involved is Canadian Seabed Research (CSR) GeoSurveys Ltd., whose $361,640 project will take place in Lobster Fishing Areas 26A, which covers Antigonish County, and will focus on the identification, retrieval and disposal of ghost fishing gear from challenging areas within the Northumberland Strait.

A spokesperson with Fisheries and Oceans Canada advised of the eight million metric tonnes of plastic that ends up in the world’s ocean every year, lost and abandoned fishing gear is one of the largest and most deadly contributors.

“We are talking about things like fishing nets, crab pots, and lobster traps,” they said. “Which are considered some of the most harmful marine plastic pollution out there because of their ongoing impact of being able to catch fish.”

Other local recipients of the Ghost Gear Fund include the Cape Breton Fish Harvesters Association ($68,310) focusing 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 Lobster Fishing Area 27, and The Eastern Nova Scotia Marine Stewardship Society ($121,388.20), with a project including pilot studies of GPS-enabled smart buoy technology in the Maritimes, assessing its applicability across different fisheries and industries.

The remaining provincial recipients include Coastal Action ($432,299), and Fishing Gear Coalition of Atlantic Canada ($352,500); all recipients will be leading projects relating to ghost gear retrieval.