Government of Canada hosts two-day conference to explore innovative fishing technologies to protect whales and stop spread of ocean plastics

News release

February 11, 2020
Halifax, Nova Scotia – Today marks the start of the Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Gear Innovation Summit, a two-day event in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to explore options for whale-safe fishing gear, and find innovative ways to prevent, retrieve and recycle lost or discarded fishing gear, known as ghost gear.

The Summit brings together over 250 harvesters, industry representatives, fishing gear manufacturers, marine mammal responders, ENGOs and government officials from Canada, the United States, Iceland and Norway. Participants contribute to panel discussions, as well as an interactive exhibit space that features innovations in gear technology and innovative programming from across the country.

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, opened the Summit today by thanking fish harvesters for their continued cooperation and commitment to reducing fishing gear interactions with marine mammals. Harvesters and their respective organizations are key partners in mitigating and retrieving ghost gear, and taking steps to protect whales, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale, from becoming entangled in fishing gear.

Over the last year, the department has been working on pilot projects, led by industry, to test the application of new gear technologies, such as ropeless gear. Initiatives such as these could help further reduce the amount of rope in the water and subsequently lower the risk of entanglements to whales in the future.

Additionally, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has established the $8.3 million Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Contribution Program (Ghost Gear Fund). This program will help Indigenous groups, fish harvesters, the aquaculture industry, non-profit organizations and communities take concrete actions to support ghost gear prevention, retrieval and responsible disposal. It will also support fish harvesters in acquiring new gear technologies to reduce gear loss.

This funding is over and above the funds announced for the Fisheries and Aquaculture Clean Technology Adoption Program, Atlantic Fisheries Fund and Quebec Fisheries Fund, which also encourage innovation and new technology to support the long-term health of Canada’s fish and seafood sector.


“Fish harvesters have shown incredible leadership and a sustained commitment to protecting our oceans. Our government is proud to partner with the industry leaders to implement new gear requirements which will reduce the entanglement of whales and decrease the amount of discarded fishing gear in the ocean.  We know that for a lucrative fishing industry and healthy marine ecosystem to continue to coexist, we will need innovate solutions. That is exactly why the Gear Innovation Summit is bringing together experts across many fields. Together, we will continue to confront the challenges of our time to ensure that fish harvesters and marine life can share the oceans for generations to come.”    

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Quick facts

  • Each year, more than eight million metric tons of plastic end up in the world's oceans. A major contributor to plastic waste is lost and abandoned fishing gear, also known as ghost gear. Ghost gear is one of the deadliest forms of plastic debris, and has a damaging impact on marine animals like whales and turtles, the coastal and marine environment, and global fishing stocks.

  • From July 18 to 20, 2019, Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducted a three-day ghost gear retrieval operation in the Gulf of St. Lawrence known as Operation Ghost. The operation recovered over 100 snow crab traps and over 9km of rope from the water.

  • Since summer 2019, the department has supported several other ghost gear retrieval operations in waters near PEI, New Brunswick and British Columbia. More activities are planned for 2020.

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Jane Deeks
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans
and the Canadian Coast Guard


Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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