Ghost Gear Surveillance and Recovery

CLIENT: Lax Kw’alaams Fishing Enterprise
DATE: January 2020 – March 2022

Project Overview

Lax Kw’alaams is a remote coastal First Nation of 3800 people in Prince Rupert, BC. The Lax Kw’alaams Fishing Enterprise (LKFE) has an established fishing fleet, provides technical expertise for fisheries science research, and monitors cumulative effects of environmental changes. The management of coastal resources is an important and integral part of Lax Kw’alaams community and ensuring the sustainable and responsible use of these resources is vital. The community’s reliance on the marine environment makes it imperative to ensure their waterways and marine ecosystems are clean and healthy.

Lost, abandoned, or otherwise discarded fishing gear, also known as “ghost gear”, is a harmful type of marine debris found globally. It is called ghost gear for its ability to “ghost fish”: continually trapping fish and other animals without being attended to. It can entangle marine mammals and birds, reduce fish populations, and damage both natural habitats and boats, resulting in dire environmental and economic consequences. With support from the Ghost Gear Fund, the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, and the First Nations Solid Waste Management Initiative, LKFE and Shift Environmental developed the Ghost Gear Surveillance and Recovery Program that provides the assets, infrastructure, and capacity to retrieve and responsibly dispose of ghost gear from Lax Kw’alaams traditional marine territory.

In 2020, we helped LKFE survey ecologically sensitive fishing grounds and map ghost gear concentrations within their territory. In 2021, LKFE procured a remotely operated vehicle and a sidescan sonar towfish. After classroom and field training on these technologies, we assisted LKFE in retrieving abandoned gill nets, seine nets and crab pots from these remote areas. Port Edward Harbour Authority provided cleaning and storage facilities for retrieved gear and OceanLegacy provided recycling facilities.

The assets and training acquired through this program assists the Lax Kw’alaams fishing community to continue gear retrievals for years to come, providing economic and environmental benefits into the future, and supporting indigenous-led coastal resource management.


  • $800K in funding secured over 2 years, supported by Ghost Gear Fund, First Nations Solid Waste Management Initiative, and the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation
  • Provided wages for Lax Kw’alaams Fisheries Technicians
  • Procured Sidescan Sonar Towfish
  • Co-developed Standard Operating Procedures for ghost gear retrievals using ROV
  • Trained 7 people in the use of sonar and ROV pilotage
  • Contributed 800 work hours to field support for Lax Kw’alaams Fisheries Technicians during gear retrievals
  • Established partnerships for the responsible disposal of abandoned gear

Shift Environmental offered a complete bespoke solution to our Ghost Gear Project, integrating the latest hydrographic surveying and ROV capabilities. Shift managed the project from design, development and training through to deployment.

– Bill Shepert, Manager, Lax Kw’alaams Fishing Enterprise LP

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