Derelict Fishing Gear

Cetus is working on the issue of derelict fishing gear on the BC coast. We have been involved in the removal of a gillnet from the Stephenson Islets in Johnstone Strait and derelict nets from the Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve and while on the water for our Straitwatch and Warden programs, we actively collect and dispose of derelict gear including crab traps and floating debris.

Starting with a focus on southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, we are consulting with engaged participants from fishermen to divers to the provincial and federal governments and citizen scientists and working in collaboration with other organisations including Living Oceans Society and the Northwest Straits Initiative. We have researched best practices for derelict fishing gear removal around the world.

California sea lions in gill net

Derelict fishing gear has an unseen and devastating impact on the marine environment. Since 2002 the Northwest Straits Initiative’s Derelict Fishing Gear Program, based in Washington state, has removed over 4,000 ghost nets and 2,500 derelict crab pots from Puget Sound. In doing so, they have shown that these nets removed were entangling more than 2 million animals every year, including 3.46 marine mammals, 59.68 birds, 205.47 fish, and 7,146.53 invertebrates daily.

In early 2011 the Province of BC worked with the Northwest Straits Initiative to remove derelict fishing gear in Canadian waters, off North Pender Island and in Semiahmoo Bay. Four days of effort resulted in the removal or disablement of 218 derelict crab pots and found that the derelict crab pot target density is nearly three times higher than derelict crab pot densities ever recorded by the NWSI in the US waters of the Salish Sea. In February 2011 a derelict salmon purse seine net was also removed from North Pender Island. During the partial removal of the net, Northwest Straits Initiative reported a total of 1,799 animals recovered (both dead and alive).

Leah removing derelict net at Robson Bight, 2012

Megan with derelict gillnet.

Megan with derelict gillnet on the F/V Bet-Sea, 2013.


Good, Thomas; Jeffrey June, Michael Etnier, Ginny Broadhurst. September, 2009. Derelict fishing nets in Puget Sound and the Northwest Straits: Patterns and threats to marine fauna.

Natural Resources Consultants, Inc, May 15, 2008. Rates of Marine Species Mortality Caused By Derelict Fishing Nets in Puget Sound, Washington.

Northwest Straits Foundation and Natural Resources Consultants, Inc, March 31, 2011. British Columbia Derelict Fishing Gear Survey and Removal Project, Prepared for Ministry of the Environment.