Ghost gear, marine debris retrieval gets boost
There are some new kids in town this summer working with their East Coast counterparts doing ghost gear retrieval operations in the Gulf and Maritime Regions of Nova Scotia.
The Coastal Restoration Society (CRS) was formed in British Columbia in 2017, growing from a small team of five to an organization of 300-plus people, becoming a leader in industrial-scale environmental restoration and stewardship projects.
For the past month or so they've been working in southwestern Nova Scotia alongside Scotian Shores founder Angela Riley, who has been hired as their waste diversion and data collector.
“It's kind of like a godsend,” says Riley. “We're doing all we can do with the volunteers with Scotian Shores and so many other groups around Nova Scotia but the Coastal Restoration Society has such a big toolbox and a big number of resources. It's amazing.”
The CRS shoreline team, which includes a dive team that has been doing a lot of underwater retrievals, has been working its way through Yarmouth County, removing some 30,000 kg of marine debris by mid-July.
“Our first phase is the Yarmouth area, we're still working on that. The second phase is Digby Neck so Long Island, Brier Island; the harder stuff to get to. That's why I'm so excited about them being here with Scotian Shores," Riley says. "We can only do so much. We can't haul waste off Long Island. It's quite hard because it's like a twokilometre hike into some of these places. It's really hard to access.”
Riley says local boaters and lobster fishers are also helping. “We will be moving up to Digby soon with some boat work and shoreline work on the more remote areas that are hard to get to.”
CRS director Andrea McQuade says the society is excited that after years of conversation and tentative planning it is working in the Gulf and Maritime Regions of Nova Scotia on a six-month Ghost Gear Removal Project in response to Hurricane
"We're working with Indigenous governments, communities, leadership, the fishing industry and other non-profits to respond to the incredible amount of debris redistributed throughout the region after the hurricane, focusing on aggregated traps and infrastructure in harbors and high-priority areas," McQuade says. "CRS is hoping to engage 30 to 50 local hires in training, capacity building, and employment.”
The society has established
an Atlantic Coast Hub in Yarmouth it hopes will become permanent.
“We’re extremely grateful for the relationships we have built and are continuing to build with our partners here in the Atlantic Region,” says McQuade. “This project has been met with so much enthusiasm from our Indigenous, industry, non-profit, community, and government partners, which to us, indicates the need for this type of work. We’re so grateful that this level of funding supports the goals we collectively share.”
The society received $700,000 in funding through the federal government’s ghost gear round of funding in 2021-2022 to not only remove and dispose of ghost gear and marine aquaculture debris, but to also pilot new debris-detection technology and survey mapping tools.
“CRS was able to acquire a remote underwater vehicle (ROV) to assist in our preliminary Abandoned, Lost, or Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG) survey work and to conduct site safety assessments,” says Rheanna Drennan, CRS Ghost Gear Project Lead. “ROVs are quickly becoming one of the leading tools for identifying submerged ALDFG and abandoned aquaculture sites.”
Through research of available ROVs, CRS was able to locate MarineNav, a Canadian-based provider in P.E.I that builds, services and offers training. MarineNav has federal contracts with the Canadian Coast Guard and is leading the use of ROV research and development globally.
“MarineNav was able to train CRS field crew to operate the ROV and its related technology, to allow us to utilize the ROV during our pre-retrieval survey and assessment work,” says Drennan, noting that given the timing of the Ghost Gear Fund, CRS must operate throughout the winter months. Having the ROV has allowed them to assess underwater sites for ALDFG and hazards over a wide swath of areas before sending divers into the water.
“The data provided also allows CRS to effectively prepare for our retrieval work, knowing exactly what equipment we will require. The ROV we purchased is equipped with side-scan sonar, which allows us to operate the system in poor visibility conditions that are common on the coast throughout the year,” Drennan says. Side-scan sonar is also an effective tool for surveying and mapping underwater habitats and structures.
“We report on these when we encounter them. We also make all our data available to our partner Nations to support them in developing baseline conditions for managing coastal areas in their territories,” says Drennan.
For the 2022-23 Ghost
Gear Project in Atlantic Canada, CRS and MarineNav have continued to work together to provide training to the team and expanded introductory ROV training to our newly hired local and indigenous field techs.
CRS is committed to providing foundational training to its employees that is transferrable to other fields or to prepare them for pursuing further education with the technology, explains Drennan. CRS has also been communicating with Dalhousie University and is looking to share its data to support the ongoing work by a network of academic organizations studying ALDFG in Atlantic Canada.
McQuade says the CRS has received funding because of their experience working on the Pacific region with Indigenous communities, and because of expressed support and interest of Indigenous governments and communities in the Atlantic region.
Riley says she will be working with CRS until September. They will eventually make their way to Shelburne County after nesting shorebirds start migrating.
Riley says Scotian Shores and its ocean warriors have been working hard at shoreline cleanups throughout the province, removing almost 250,000 pounds so far this year.
“With all the waste we’ve pulled with coastal restoration we’re recycling over 50 percent of it right now, which is awesome when you think about the ropes and traps,” Riley says. “We’re still looking for Styrofoam (recycling) though.”