Canada cleans up nearly 700 metric tons of lost fishing gear from 2022 storm Fiona

By Thomson Reuters Apr 22, 2024 | 3:58 PM

By Wa Lone

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada said on Monday it helped pay for the removal of 695 metric tons of lost fishing gear in Atlantic Canada, which was hit by storm Fiona in 2022.

The storm surge swept up fishing equipment such as nets and rope, known as “ghost gear,” during Fiona, which reached Canada as a powerful post-tropical storm. The gear, a form of plastic pollution, threatens marine mammals and fisheries.

Fiona forced evacuations as wind gusts reached 170 km per hour (106 mph) and the surge swallowed up homes on the coastline.

Canada announced results of the cleanup as global leaders gather in Ottawa this week to work on drafting a first-ever global treaty to rein in soaring plastic pollution.

The Canadian government helped pay for the cleanup from a C$30 million ($21.89 million) fund it created after Fiona, Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier said.

“Ghost gear threatens the sustainability of fisheries, which harms the economic prosperity of coastal communities,” she said.

Lost fishing gear is a global problem, including in the upper Andaman Sea off Thailand, where an estimated 30% of endangered marine life is affected by plastic pollution.

Canada is working on a plan to prevent fishing gear loss in the future, the fisheries department said.

Commercial fishers in Canada are required to report lost gear to the federal fisheries department.

Ingrid Giskes, senior director of Global Ghost Gear Initiative, the international NGO for marine conservation group, said that abandoned fishing gear is the deadliest plastic pollution in the ocean.

“It’s made to capture and kill marine life and it will continue to do so after it’s lost” she said.

($1 = 1.3704 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Wa Lone; Editing by Rod Nickel and Michael Erman)