Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.
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Busy summer for Clear the Coast

September 19, 2013
Will Soltau and West Coast Helicopter

Our Clear the Coast campaigners had a busy summer organizing volunteers to collect marine debris from beaches around northern Vancouver Island. The combined effort has resulted in the removal of tonnes of marine debris—mostly plastic.

Cleanups began on Oceans Day (June 8) and continued through the summer season. Local support in the form of a boat and guide from Sund’s Lodge ferried volunteers out to and back from Lizard Point,  a remote location on Malcolm Island’s north shore near to an orca rubbing beach and adjacent to the whale’s critical habitat. A local fisherman donated the use of his herring skiff to collect all the debris and bring it back for sorting and disposal. Believe it or not, the skiff was full of debris when it got back to town.

New collector bags made from old seine nets by another local fisherman were tested as a way to get larger amounts off the shore. A pilot project was designed using the collector bags as a way for visitors to help out and pitch in marine debris they found on beaches at two of the North Island’s parks and three of the more popular West Coast recreation sites. The bags proved to be a big success and plenty of people pitched in to fill them.

The campaigners organized three separate cleanups around northern Vancouver Island in September to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Since 2008 Living Oceans has coordinated annual GCSC cleanups on Malcolm Island.

Sept. 16th was a beautiful day for the last cleanup. Hecht Beach on the west side of Vancouver Island—a site identified by locals as a ‘collector beach’—was the target of the effort. It certainly lived up to its reputation. The amount of debris the volunteers found there was astounding!

“In two hours, four volunteers collected over 100 plastic drinking bottles along less than two kilometers of shoreline,” said Will Soltau, Clear the Coast Manager. “In most other locations I’ve been to this summer the number of bottles on a similar sized beach would be well under 50. The other types of debris we found, like Styrofoam, rope and broken plastic, were also well above average.”

Plastic is made from hydrocarbons and isn’t biodegradable but is photodegradable becoming brittle and breaking down into small and smaller particles over time.

“There seems to be more and more plastic debris arriving on all our beaches every year and it will continue to trash the marine ecosystem for decades to come,” said Will. “It’s just like a persistent oil spill washing ashore but in solid rather than liquid form.”

You can see what our volunteers found and where the many cleanup efforts took place over the spring and summer on our Clear the Coast map.

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