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Fleet Diving Unit members remove large tires submerged in Island bay for years

Environmental concerns and deadly hazard for crabs finally alleviated
Fleet Diving Unit members carrying out their mission. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)

Members of the Fleet Diving Unit from CFB Esquimalt saved the day for crabs in Chemainus Bay and the environment as a whole with the removal of four large industrial tires from sunken barges Wednesday.

The tires had been in the bay since 2012 as part of the barges brought in for the development of the Chemainus Quay and Marina, a project that eventually failed. The structures attracted a wide variety of marine life, but the massive tires weighing up to 400 kilograms each were trapping Red Rock and Dungeness crabs that couldn’t free themselves and wound up perishing.

Related: Tire removal in Chemainus Bay crucial to crab species survival

The overall effects of the barges in the water has also long been a concern.

Chemainus dive enthusiasts Kathleen Fenner and Gord Bell, along with retired marine biologist Doug Biffard, North Cowichan Environmental Specialist Dave Preikshot and others, finally made some headway after much wrangling to arrange for the removal of the tires that included the submission of a thorough Chemainus Bay Marine Debris Project March 2020 report by Fenner and Biffard to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

There was a series of steps involving the DFO before any tire removal could take place. A lot of paperwork was required besides the actual physical work.

The Fleet Diving Unit arrived in Chemainus Tuesday to set up floats on the tires first for the divers to smoothly and safely remove them Wednesday.

The Diving Unit did the work as a training and public relations exercise without receiving any financial compensation.

“They have been extremely supportive from the start,” praised Fenner, who has long lobbied for the tire removal and was extremely grateful to the military personnel.

“They were willing to take on the task and they accomplished it,” she indicated. “They accomplished what they set out to do cheerfully in miserable weather, as it rained all day Tuesday and Wednesday.”

On behalf of the crabs and the aquatic environment, Fenner also acknowledged the Tire Stewardship BC and Kal Tire’s commercial division in Duncan for supporting the venture.

“I want people to realize that the ocean is no place for garbage, tires or otherwise,” she stressed. “It causes complications difficult to remedy. I also would like it said that when we all work together – government, civilians, commercial businesses and non-profit organizations – we can accomplish a great deal.”

Kal Tire commercial division donated its crane truck with a driver to assist in the removal of the tires once on land.

Joji Ishikawa, operations manager for Tire Stewardship BC, took on a great deal of the project’s organization as well as all the disposal. The non-profit organization is responsible for the recycling of program tires, but not large non-program tires. Ishikawa made every attempt to have the tires recycled and Tire Stewardship agreed to pay any costs related to the disposal.

“It will feel so good to know these tires are properly disposed of and no longer harming the aquatic environment,” enthused Fenner. “I hope to never encounter another environmental situation of needless death of any species. It is way better if we can prevent these situations rather than have to correct them. Thankfully, there are some great people in our extended community.”

Crew from the Fleet Diving Unit at CFB Esquimalt heads onto the water at Kin Beach for its tire removal endeavour in Chemainus Bay. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)
Crabs were dying in Chemainus Bay after being attracted to large industrial tires and then being unable to free themselves. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)
Divers in the vicinity of the place where large industrial tires were being hauled out of Chemainus Bay. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)
Massive tires from sunken barges in Chemainus Bay are finally removed Wednesday. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)
Fleet Diving Unit members get ready to hit the water. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)
Divers move into position where they can locate sunken tires. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)
Size of the tires taken out of Chemainus Bay is put in perspective next to one of the Fleet Diving Unit members. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)
Huge tires that were killing crabs in Chemainus Bay are finally removed. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)

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Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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