Lost gear, often called "ghost gear," describes any fishing gear that has been lost or abandoned at sea. Fishing gear losses are usually caused by bad weather, underwater snags like hidden rocks or other gear, encounters with boats, or (extremely rarely) deliberate abandonment when there are no other options. Replacing lost gear represents a major expense for fishermen and the lost floats, traps, nets, etc. are a major source of pollution, which is especially troubling on otherwise pristine stretches of the BC coast.
In BC design changes were implemented years ago which for the most part ensure lost gear does not continue to fish, however those design measures are lacking in many other areas of the world, resulting in ghost gear.
We are members of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), an international alliance of stakeholders collaborating to tackle gear loss problems globally. Working within this global framework, we collaborate with fish harvesters, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and local and regional governments to monitor ghost gear on the B.C. coast, with the goal of eliminating it entirely.
In winter 2020, we conducted a series of workshops and interviews with BC's commercial fishermen to identify causes and locations of gear loss. You can read the full report here.
This project received a two-year federal grant in July 2020, and we're excited to continue working with fish harvesters and Archipelago Marine Research to reduce the volume of lost fishing gear on the B.C. coast. A press release about this grant can be found here.