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Media opportunity: Scourge of the sea ‑‑ unique study finds ‘ghost’ fishing gear captures species at risk and takes a big bite out of fisheries’ bottom line
Southwest Nova Scotia is one of Canada's most productive lobster fishing region, spanning more than 21,000 square kilometres and contributing the majority of the country’s lobster supply.
With a busy fishery, though, comes the growing challenge of abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) -- a collection of traps, ropes, hooks, cables and other fishing-related equipment that drift through the water column or litter the ocean floor. It is a global problem, but one that hasn’t been widely quantified.
Researchers at Dalhousie University wanted to find out how much gear might be in the Southwest Nova Scotia (SWNS) fishing zone and how it might be affecting the existing lobster fishery. Their baseline study provides the first preliminary assessment of environmental and economic impacts of ALDFG on the commercial lobster industry in the area.
Fishers did 60 retrieval trips, searched roughly 1,523 square kilometres of the seafloor and removed 7,064 kilograms of ALDFG. Lobster traps made up the majority, while 1,500 kilograms of dragger cable comprised 22 per cent of the recovered gear. Lost traps continued to capture 15 target and non-target species, including 239 lobsters and seven groundfish, five of which were species at risk. Tires, party balloons, a fan belt and buoys with U.S. markings were also recovered.
Dr. Tony Walker, an associate professor in Dal’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies, co-authored the paper and is available to discuss the findings, which suggest the commercial losses from ALDFG could be in excess of $175,000 (Cdn) annually.
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Senior Research Reporter
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