A record amount of marine debris was collected from the shores of Baynes Sound in this year’s annual beach cleanup.
An estimated five tons of litter, plastic, and other marine debris was gathered over seven days, according to organizers. The debris came from many sources, including recreational boats, fishing boats, and shellfishing tenures. The amount of debris likely equaled 60–70 cubic metres.
“In the past, it was always between three to four or more tons,” said Liz Johnston, who co-ordinated the cleanup. “It’s hard to imagine the size of the pile.”
The annual cleanup of Baynes Sound falls under the umbrella of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup — a nationwide event sponsored by the Vancouver Aquarium that seeks to remove litter from Canada’s beaches. The week-long event took place Sept. 23–30, with more than 120 volunteers taking part.
This year, for the first time, the Association for Denman Island Marine Stewards (ADIMS) collaborated with the BC Shellfish Growers’ Association (BCSGA) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) for the initiative. ADIMS has organized an annual cleanup on Denman Island for more than a decade.
The BCSGA and the DFO cleaned up the beaches of Royston, Union Bay, Fanny Bay and Deep Bay, while ADIMS focused on Denman Island.
Johnston claims the amount of debris collected has been increasing over the years and that the majority of it originates from the commercial shellfishing industry, which is centralized off the shores of Baynes Sound and Lambert Channel.
“We’re trying to let the world know what the problem is — that we’ve become the epicentre for this kind of industrial pollution,” she said, adding that ocean pollution causes risks to animals and the environment. “We picked up over 800 or 900 baskets just on our beaches.
“The pictures tell the story.”
BCSGA executive director Darlene Winterburn acknowledged that some of the debris comes from the shellfishing industry, but stressed that garbage of all kinds was found along the beaches.
“We had areas where there were huge concentrations of fast food packaging, bottles, cans and that sort of thing. In other areas, we had less of that but we had a lot of leisure boat and industry boat debris,” she said.
Those who took part in the cleanup agree it’s indicative of a societal problem regarding ocean pollution.
“We must try to keep plastics out of our marine environment and do what we can, regardless of the politics of it,” said Johnston. “It’s just the right thing to do.”
Winterburn says that everyone has a role and responsibility to clean up debris and ensure it doesn’t find its way into the water in the first place.
“From my perspective, we still live in a plastic society,” said Winterburn. “The unfortunate reality is that until all of us stop using it in our lives, it’s going to [continue].”
Additional help in the cleanup this year came from non-profit organization Ocean Legacy Foundation. According to Johnston, Ocean Legacy took much of the plastic debris back to its plant in Vancouver to be recycled and reused by various industrial sources.
Ocean Legacy uses a plastic-to-fuel technology that converts plastics and Styrofoam into diesel fuel. The technology emits only carbon dioxide and water as by-products.
According to Johnston, as much as 90 per cent of the debris collected will be recycled or reused.