Funding Cuts Threaten Coastal Cleanup Efforts

Funding Cuts Threaten Coastal Cleanup Efforts

Efforts to tackle ocean plastics along Canadian shorelines face uncertainty as federal funding cuts loom. The Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans' (DFO) Ghost Gear Fund, responsible for investing nearly $60 million in 139 projects to combat ocean plastics, has been omitted from the recent federal budget.

Efforts to tackle ocean plastics along Canadian shorelines face uncertainty as federal funding cuts loom. The Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans' (DFO) Ghost Gear Fund, responsible for investing nearly $60 million in 139 projects to combat ocean plastics, has been omitted from the recent federal budget.

The Ghost Gear Fund, initiated in 2020, aimed to mitigate the harmful impacts of plastic ropes, nets, and other gear from the fishing and aquaculture sectors on marine ecosystems. It has been instrumental in removing over 2,214 tonnes of plastic debris and nearly 900 kilometers of rope from Canada's oceans and beaches.

The program has not only contributed to coastal cleanups but has also fostered a burgeoning "blue" restoration economy. It has led to industry innovation, infrastructure development to manage marine debris, and the creation of well-paying jobs in rural coastal communities, particularly benefiting Indigenous peoples.

However, with federal funding potentially drying up, these positive outcomes hang in the balance. The loss of jobs and training opportunities, especially crucial for coastal First Nations amid declines in other sectors, would be a significant setback.

Additionally, funding cuts would hamper the development of marine debris recycling infrastructure, jeopardizing efforts to divert plastics from landfills. Programs like the Ocean Legacy Foundation, which operates collection depots for recycled plastic gear, face uncertainty without renewed funding.

The absence of consistent funding poses a challenge to creating a closed-loop economy for plastics, essential for curbing the production of new marine pollutants. Without adequate support, coastal communities, particularly those in Atlantic provinces, lack the means to process collected plastics effectively.

The federal government's budget decision, coinciding with international negotiations for a global plastics treaty, has drawn criticism. Sustainable and reliable funding is imperative to sustain ocean cleanup efforts and support a recovery economy, especially in coastal regions disproportionately affected by marine plastics pollution.

The urgency to address ocean plastics cannot be overstated, given the threat they pose to marine ecosystems, wildlife, and human health. It is essential for the federal government to commit to robust funding to safeguard Canada's coastlines and ensure a sustainable future.

Source: Rochelle Baker (May 8, 2024). Coastal cleanup groups worry federal funding cuts will sink efforts to tackle ocean plastics. Canada’s National Observer. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2024/05/08/news/coastal-clean-groups-worry-funding-cuts-will-sink-efforts-tackle-ocean

Picture: Coastal Restoration Foundation crews clean up plastic foam and marine debris as part of the federal government's ghost gear program. Photo Ben Grayzel / Olam Films