This file photo shows some of the ocean debris collected by volunteers on Denman Island in 2018.

This file photo shows some of the ocean debris collected by volunteers on Denman Island in 2018.

Vancouver Island MP encouraged by Ghost Gear Fund

Courtenay-Alberni’s Johns says more needed, but ocean clean-up projects will be ‘transformational’

It may not be a large chunk of change in the scheme of things, but Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns is encouraged by an $8.3 million federal contribution to clean up ocean debris.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) recently announced that 26 groups will benefit from the Ghost Gear Fund, referring to lost and abandoned fishing gear, which is one of the largest contributors to marine litter.

READ: Shellfish industry get funds to clean up Baynes Sound and beyond

“It’s a drop in the bucket, but it’s a drop that we didn’t have five years ago,” said Johns, the NDP Critic for Fisheries and Oceans. “All of these groups are working hard to create awareness and education, but wanting change from the top in terms of regulations and legislation in Ottawa — and also looking for funding…This program was a result of our motion (M151) and a result of our work collaboratively. We’re ecstatic to see the money finally starting to flow.”

The disappointing part, he said, is the size of the fund, noting 22 of 90-plus applications were approved in Canada. Four international projects were approved.

“It shows that it was way over-prescribed. We hope it will lead to further funding as they see the results.”

Johns expects some of the projects will be “transformational.” The Ocean Legacy Foundation, for instance, plans to build pilot ocean plastic collection depots in Tofino and Powell River.

“We hope they’ll lead to significant change, but at the same time we need to change regulations and policy when it comes to ghost gear.”

He implores Canada to consider the leadership shown in Oregon and Washington. In the last 13 years, he said nearly 6,000 large fishing nets have been removed in Washington, saving about 12,000 marine animals each year.

The fishing industry says five to 30 per cent of overall species in the biomass is trapped in derelict gear.

“It’s a significant cost to the commercial fishing industry,” Johns said, noting a voluntary program in Washington allows people to report lost gear and nets.

“That no-fault approach has helped fishers voluntarily share what they’re doing.”

As part of the COVID-19 response, the Small Ship Tour Operators Association of BC has pitched an idea for marine debris removal.

“They have the equipment, and they could be working this fall, but as we know, there’s no envelope right now that works quickly for the federal government to respond,” Johns said.

“We’re continuing to monitor how this program (Ghost Gear Fund) will roll out,” he added. “We do need to see better traceability, better marking of gear and better tagging of gear. No one wants to lose their gear. It’s expensive, they care deeply about the ocean.”

Illegal fishers, on the other hand, will cut their nets when caught or under surveillance.

“That’s a whole different issue,” Johns said. “Canada needs to really step up its game on illegal fishing.”

The federal government has set a target to protect 25 per cent of our oceans by 2025, working toward 30 per cent by 2030.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mary Ellen Campbell, president of the Parksville Museum, visits the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: A chat with Parksville Museum president Mary Ellen Campbell

Podcast: Talk includes plans for 2021, dealing with COVID-19 and more

Eaglecrest Golf Club plans to operate as a nine-hole course starting April 1. (Eaglecrest Facebook photo)
Eaglecrest Golf Club in Qualicum Beach still plans to have course layout reduced to 9 holes

Town council continues to negotiate lease for 18-hole operation

A rendering of a proposed housing development located across from the beachfront in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Multi-residential development planned across from Qualicum Beach waterfront

Residents raise variety of concerns about project

Proprietor of Sweet Truck, Morgan Ray, as she hands off her baked goods to a customer. (Photo courtesy of Avrinder Dhillon Photography)
COVID-19: Qualicum Beach baker eyes move back from food truck to bricks and mortar

Storefront offers more stability amid growth in sales: Ray

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read