HALIFAX: The Fishing Gear Coalition of Atlantic Canada (FGCAC) wants to hear from those involved in the fishery.

The FGCAC, with support from Cleanfarms, is working on a project to find long-term solutions for responsibly managing end-of-life fishing gear, starting with lobster traps and fishing rope. The FGCAC hopes to expand the project to include other types of fishing and aquaculture gear in the future.

Currently, the FGCAC is looking for perspectives from key stakeholders and rights holders. As a first step, the FGCAC said its project team engaged with more than 100 stakeholders to produce a report on end-of-life fishing gear management in Nova Scotia, which revealed that close to 250,000 lobster traps and more than 1,000 tonnes of fishing rope are replaced annually in Nova Scotia, requiring long-term solutions.

“From that report, and our research, we found that there’s no provincewide or easily accessible solution for disposing and managing of the end-of-life gear,” said Rachel Kendall, environmental specialist, operations and finance coordinator with the FGCAC. “It varies throughout the province, depending on where you are, how you can bring it to a facility, and sometimes that can be hard. We want to make the most easy and accessible for everyone to encourage people to bring their gear to facilities to be managed.”

The results of that report are now being used to continue research and start engagement with stakeholders, Kendall said.

The FGCAC is working with Nova Scotian consulting group Third Sector Enhancement to gather thoughts from those interested in this project. The FGCAC invites those interested to participate in a survey to gather perspectives on end-of-life fishing gear.

Kendall said this consultation phase is underway, including online sessions scheduled to take place this month.

“The goal of our project is to connect with everyone, especially retailers of fishing gear and the fishers themselves, to encourage participation so we can find and develop solutions.”

Kendall said the FGCAC is a coalition of 30 members, including the fishing industry, government, Indigenous communities and academia.

“Pretty well everyone that can be involved in something like this; fishers, fishing associations, harbour authorities, the waste facilities, municipalities, everyone that has some sort of part of the system,” she explained. “We’re primarily from Atlantic Canada, but also with representation from across the country and the United States.”

The FGCAC formed in 2018 as a non-profit, non-governmental organization to find sustainable solutions for end-of-life fishing and aquaculture gear around Atlantic Canada, Kendall said.

The group said its main goal is to find solutions to managing end-of-life fishing gear that will protect the environment as well as the livelihoods of Atlantic Canadian families and fishers.

Unlike ghost gear – which is considered abandoned, lost, or discarded gear – Kendall said the FGCAC is dealing with gear management.

“When I said end-of-life fishing gear, I’m referring to gear that is at the end of its use,” she noted. “A trap, for example, it’s no longer usable for catching lobster so it needs to be recycled, or otherwise dealt with, just like any product.”

Kendall said there are currently 28 facilities in Nova Scotia, and seven in the Strait area, that deal with gear that is nearing the end of its usefulness.

Just like any other enterprise, Kendall said fishers are responsible for disposing of their gear.

“When I say facilities, (I’m talking about) waste resource management facilities, so that includes landfills, transfer stations… or construction and demolition sites,” she said. “A fisher or someone can take it there, drop it off. You may or not have to pay a tipping fee depending on the site.”

The FGCAC said this project is supported by Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Ghost Gear Fund and Divert Nova Scotia.

According to the FGCAC, the Atlantic Canadian fishery employs close to 33,000 people, contributed $3.2 billion to the economy in 2018, and supports more than 1,000 communities.