Abandoned fishing traps and other gear littering the Bay of Fundy have been killing lobster and entangling whales for years, but a local fishermen's association is trying to clean up the long-standing problem of ghost gear.

The Fundy North Fishermen's Association started dragging the waters off the coast of Saint John and Deer Island seven years ago.

More than 500 abandoned traps were hauled up from the bottom of the Bay of Fundy in 2008.

"There was concern that there was all this gear down there that was fishing and killing lobsters — could entangle whales. The gear is just fishing and fishing and killing indiscriminately," said Maria Recchia, the association's executive director.

In the seven years since the quest started to clean up ghost gear in the Bay of Fundy, fewer abandoned traps and lines are being found.

Fundy North Fisherman's Association Ghost Gear Retrieval

Roger Hunter, a Mispec fisherman and member of Fundy North Fishermen's Association, hauls in a derelict lobster trap. Hunter is one of the lead fishermen for the organization's ghost trap retrieval initiative. (Marielle Torrefranca/CBC)

It's estimated more than 1,000 lobster traps, along with countless nets and lengths of rope, have been removed from the area.

This year's ghost gear retrieval program is expected to finish in October or November, depending on the weather.

Recchia said the project has been a success story, especially for fishermen in Saint John.

"Every year there's fewer and fewer ... that told us we really cleaned up these areas," she said.

When the gear is collected, some of it is sold back to fishermen to reuse. But Recchia said the ghost gear is winding up in other hands as well.

"Some big companies that are taking old fishing gear and turning them into other things, like there's a factory in eastern Europe that's making carpets out of old nets," she said.

Finding more than fishing gear

grappling hook

Hunter has created a line of grappling hooks, used to drag the water for abandoned fishing gear and debris. (Marielle Torrefranca/CBC)

It isn't just fishing gear that is being fished out of the Bay of Fundy.

Fishermen have retrieved a centuries-old anchor as well as a truck axle from the 1940s.

As the amount of ghost gear that is being collected continues to dwindle, the organization is now focusing on prevention.

The association is working with fishermen and the aquaculture industry on methods to reduce the problem.

But the fishermen's association is also planning to hook up with a global ghost gear initiative, which launches in England this fall.

The Fundy fishermen hope to connect with like-minded groups from around the world that are looking for new ways to prevent and tackle the issue of fishing litter.