Fishing gear collected in 2020 from the Atlantic Ocean is shown in a handout photo from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-DFO

A new study says lost and discarded fishing gear dumped off the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia, site of Canada's most lucrative lobster fishery, is trapping species at risk.

Researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax also determined that the abandoned collection of traps, ropes, hooks and other equipment is costing the lobster industry plenty in lost catches.

While the scourge of so-called ghost gear is a global problem, the study is described as the first of its kind to provide a preliminary assessment of its environmental and economic impacts.

The findings are based on what researchers found when fishing boats were used to haul up more than seven tonnes of lost, discarded and abandoned gear from the ocean floor.

Lobster traps made up the majority of the gear pulled to the surface, and the researchers calculated lost traps could be responsible for more than $175,000 in annual commercial losses.

As well, those untended traps are continuing to capture other bottom-dwelling creatures, including groundfish that are considered species at risk.