Rope recycling bins are coming to select harbours in southwest Nova Scotia as part of an ambitious project to remove up to 22 tonnes of ghost fishing gear — including 2,000 trash lobster traps — over the next two years.
The $432,000 project led by the conservation group Coastal Action will use fishermen in Canada's most lucrative inshore fishing grounds to retrieve lost rope, buoys and traps.
It's one of 26 projects across Canada sharing $8.3 million from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to remove ghost gear.
The department announced the initiative last year. It identified the groups awarded funding on Wednesday.
Alexa Goodman is project co-ordinator for Coastal Action, which is based in Mahone Bay, N.S.
"This type of retrieval hasn't happened in Nova Scotia and most places in Atlantic Canada. So this is really just an estimate at this point. I think anything that we remove from the water and anything that we can pilot for recycling is a huge win," she said.
The project involves a wide range of partners, including fishing captains in lobster fishing areas 33, 34 and 35 in southwestern Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy, two laboratories at Dalhousie University, the Ocean Tracking Network and the municipal waste recycling company, Sustane Technologies Inc.
Using local information from fishermen and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Ocean Tracking Network will deploy sidescan sonar to find the biggest concentrations of ghost gear on the ocean floor.
Ten harbours will have recycling bins for recovered rope.
Sustane Technologies of Chester, N.S., will try to convert the rope into synthetic diesel.
"Marine debris, regardless of its source, pollutes the marine environment. It degrades habitat and ultimately we should be trying to reduce it in any capacity possible," said Goodman.
The Fishing Gear Coalition of Atlantic Canada is getting $361,000 to develop a voluntary rope recycling program for the fishing industry in Nova Scotia.
Group members include an aquaculture association, inshore fisheries associations, environmentalists and some manufacturers.
Co-ordinator Aaron Stevenson said a mechanism to pay for recycling has not been identified, so it's not clear how much — or even if participating companies — will be expected to pay toward cleaning up end-of-life rope.
"What we are looking for is a program that will work, that will be cost effective and above all be accessible," said Stevenson.
Here's a breakdown of how much money each group in Atlantic Canada is receiving from DFO for the project:
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