Grabbing ghosts: Pilot project retrieving lost gear from lobster fishery

·1 min read

The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association is working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to recover lobster traps left behind in the Northumberland Strait.

Lobster fishing gear can be moved around by storms or by passing ships, and then lost. The traps are known collectively as ghost gear, and they are a problem because they continue to catch lobster in unknown numbers — and that could have an impact on the health of the stock.

The project is divided into two parts. The first, already completed, saw 15 volunteer fishermen scanning the waters of the central Northumberland Strait for any visible buoys or lines showing where lost gear might be.

The second part digs deeper. PEIFA has borrowed a large grapnel from the Maritime Fishermen's Union. The system of hooks and chains is designed to snare lines or the nets around a trap.

"We talked to fishers about key areas or hot spots that might have had some gear lost that they weren't able to retrieve," said Jennifer Dewland, administration and funding coordinator with the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association.

"Any gear that's lying on the bottom, without any buoy lines, if it catches that net or line or anything, it's going to haul [it] up."

The hauled gear will be stored for 30 days, giving fishermen a chance to reclaim their own items.

Dewland said it is possible they will recover illegally set gear during the process; that will be left up to DFO to resolve.

Managers of the project will choose four fine-weather days in the first two weeks of December to do the sweep.

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