Canada Tackles Plastic Pollution and Ghost Fishing Gear in Oceans

News release

August 27, 2019 

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia — Plastic pollution is a global challenge that requires immediate action. It pollutes our rivers, lakes, and oceans and entangles and kills marine mammals.

Every year, 640,000 tons of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear, also known as ghost gear, enters our oceans. Ghost fishing gear can stay in the ocean for hundreds of years and entangles and continues to catch species like whales, turtles, sharks and fish. Plastic pollution harms both our environment and our economy.

In a concrete effort to address this challenge, today, Darren Fisher, Member of Parliament for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and Andy Fillmore, Member of Parliament for Halifax , announced a new gear retrieval contribution program that will provide up to $8.3 million to assist fish harvesters, environmental groups, Indigenous communities, the aquaculture industry, and coastal communities to find and retrieve harmful ghost gear from the ocean and dispose of it responsibly.

The Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution Program will also support fish harvesters to acquire new clean technologies to reduce gear loss. This new program is one of many actions announced under the Government of Canada’s plan to combat plastic pollution and ghost gear in the environment. It is designed to address the entire spectrum of issues surrounding ghost gear, including prevention, mitigation and disposal. To further address ghost gear in the oceans, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will host a Gear Innovation Summit in February 2020, which will include discussions on technological solutions to prevent ghost fishing gear from entering the oceans in the first place.

With the longest coastline in the world and one-quarter of the world’s freshwater, Canada has a unique responsibility – and opportunity – to lead in reducing plastic pollution. From launching the Ocean Plastics Charter at the 2018 G7 Summit to signing the Global Ghost Gear Initiative to investing in new Canadian technologies that turn plastic waste into valuable resources, we are doing just that. Together, we can make our economy stronger and take an important step toward protecting wildlife and the places Canadians love.


“Our government has made fighting plastic pollution a top priority. Just a few months ago, the Government of Canada announced that it will ban harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021. Today’s actions build on that commitment. Removing harmful ghost fishing gear from the oceans will support a healthy ocean environment and contribute to the economic resilience of Canada’s coastal and rural communities.”

Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson

“Ghost gear undermines the sustainability of our fisheries, often trapping marine animals which would otherwise be part of a regular catch. Not only is it damaging to the ecosystem, it affects the industries and coastal communities that depend on fisheries for their livelihoods. This program will be a tremendous asset to harvesters, small craft harbours, and all those with a vested interest in keeping our waters clean and healthy.”

Andy Fillmore, Member of Parliament for Halifax

“Over the past few years, we have all seen the disastrous consequences ghost gear can have on the marine environment, specifically on large mammals like the endangered North Atlantic right whale. With programs like this one, we are making it easier to remove and dispose of lost gear, helping to ensure our coastal fishing communities and the marine ecosystem they depend on, continue to thrive.”

Darren Fisher, Member of Parliament for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour

Quick facts

  • In July 2019, Fisheries and Oceans Canada alongside industry partners and local communities conducted a three-day ghost fishing gear retrieval program in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Over 100 snow crab traps and nine kilometers of rope were removed during the operation.

  • A 2016 study by the World Economic Forum identified the breakdown in the global plastic system: 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans, which is the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.

  • At the 2018 G7 meeting of Environment, Energy and Oceans Ministers, Canada became a signatory to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and committed to combatting ghost fishing gear at home and internationally.

  • In support of the G7 plastics Charter, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has committed $2.6 million dollars towards initiatives that invite Canadian small businesses to develop innovative technologies to reduce domestic marine plastic waste.

  • An assessment of regulations is currently underway to ensure that any potential impediments to addressing and reducing ghost gear domestically are identified and addressed.

Associated links


Jocelyn Lubczuk
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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