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Five tonnes of tsunami debris collected on northern Vancouver Island

September 11, 2015
Living Oceans appeals for funding to recover stranded debris

VANCOUVER— Living Oceans Society and some 20 volunteers gathered up an estimated five metric tonnes of marine debris from the remotest shores of northern Vancouver Island over the past two weeks, bagging it all in helicopter lift bags for removal. Nearly all of the debris bore manufacturer’s marks or labels from Japan, meaning it was likely washed to sea by the 2011 Tohoku tsunami. Living Oceans put out an urgent call for funding today, saying that poor weather prevented them from bringing all of the debris in to the landfill over the September long weekend as planned.

“The additional helicopter time and haulage that we’ll need weren’t in the initial budget,” said Karen Wristen, Living Ocean’s Executive Director. “We’d planned it so that everything should have been in the bins on Monday, but Mother Nature disagreed!” The Labour Day weekend saw unsettled weather on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, with dense fog and a low ceiling limiting the helicopter’s mobility on the day the lifts were scheduled.

“We managed to bring in 2.8 tonnes of mostly plastic debris, but I estimate there’s at least as much still out there waiting to be picked up,” said Wristen. She is concerned that storm surges or high winter tides will refloat some of the bagged debris, making it a hazard to navigation and wildlife alike.

The Living Oceans cleanup operations took place in Cape Scott and Lanz and Cox Provincial Parks, some of the most remote wilderness shoreline in the B.C. Parks system. Lowrie Bay, Sea Otter Cove and San Josef Bay in Cape Scott Provincial Park were also cleared last year, so this year’s haul, which should amount to about 3.5 tonnes for the three beaches, washed in during just one year.

“The magnitude of this problem is overwhelming,” said Wristen. “Debris is washing up in some of the most productive habitat in the Province for marine life and seabirds and removing it is costly. Volunteer efforts such as that mounted by Living Oceans are expensive, but far more cost effective than any other option.”

West Coast Helicopters has offered to try to recover debris if it has a helicopter in the area, but no runs to these remote areas are currently scheduled. Living Oceans is seeking to raise an additional $5,500 to cover the cost of the helicopter, bins and haulage to remove the remaining debris.

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Contact Information

Karen Wristen, Executive Director 604-788-5634

Images

  • Map of northern Vancouver Island and the Scott Islands

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