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DFO launches pilot project to bring ‘full-circle solution’ to ghost fishing gear

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A new pilot project launched by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is seeing old and abandoned fishing gear being put to good use.

DFO’s Small Crafts Harbour has partnered with Goodwood Plastic to recycle and process scrap and derelict fishing gear into synthetic lumber, then install it back along fishing wharves across the province.

It’s contrary to the typical process, which sees excess gear going to a landfill.

“It has to do with sustainability,” said Brenda Alexander, area manager for Small Crafts Harbour. “It promotes the fishery in Canada as a sustainable industry, and this is just one more component of it.”

“We’re not contributing to pollution, we’re doing something about it.”

Read more: 63 tonnes of ‘ghost gear’ removed from Atlantic Ocean in 2020, Fisheries Department says

The pilot project began with DFO and Goodwood Plastic replacing 80 of the wooden harbour fenders with plastic lumber last month.

“Basically, we’re treating it against the treated timber,” Alexander said. “This kind of negated comments we were hearing from industry by putting it back into something that promotes the industry here.”

The project follows a $475,000 DFO grant to Goodwood Plastic, which is based in Stewiacke, N.S., and consists of just under a dozen employees, under Canada’s Innovations Solutions Fund.

Mike Chassie, the vice-president of Goodwood Plastic, says the new fenders are made up of about 50 kilometres of fishing rope that would normally end up in a landfill.

He says they’re happy to be providing a multi-purpose solution to an ongoing problem.

“Having innovative solutions like this, where it can provide a second life, really helps,” said Chassie, “because not only are you reusing the plastic but you also don’t need to cut down more trees.”

“It’s nice being able to provide a full-circle solution to this.”

Click to play video: Federal government cracking down on abandoned fishing equipment

And Chassie doesn’t want the project to stop with fenders. The recycling process is able to make products like decks, deck furniture, benches and picnic tables, which Chassie says could benefit boardwalks and provincial parks across the province.

Read more: ‘Ghost fishing’ — Crackdown nets 337 illegal traps in B.C.’s Boundary Bay

Now, all they need is buy-in from the provincial and municipal governments.

“There’s so many different applications. The limit is your imagination,” he said.

“It has the potential to really make Nova Scotia a global leader in the ghost fishing gear initiative.”