Tires from sunken barges in Chemainus Bay have attracted a considerable number of crabs over the years and that’s not a good thing. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)

Tires from sunken barges in Chemainus Bay have attracted a considerable number of crabs over the years and that’s not a good thing. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)

Tire removal in Island bay crucial to crab species survival

Divers sound the alarm about crabs becoming trapped in tires from sunken barges off Chemainus

The dive community in Chemainus has a direct window to the damage and devastation that can occur from disrespecting our ocean environment and habitat.

Chemainus residents Kathleen Fenner and Gord Bell, along with retired marine biologist Doug Biffard of Duncan and others, know the local waters like the back of their hands. Some of their discoveries are alarming.

“We have a beautiful piece of ocean in our area that needs respect, not garbage dumped in it,” noted Fenner.

Related: Brilliant life under the sea near Chemainus

Back in 2017, the Courier published an article about diving on the sunken barges in Chemainus Bay in which Fenner was quoted as saying, “sadly, there is some old wood, pipe and four tires each about eight feet tall also in the area.”

She finally got the nerve about a year ago to inspect the insides of those tires more closely.

“It was worse than anticipated,” observed Fenner. “The tires trap crabs, indiscriminately killing them. The crabs crawl in and can’t get out so live crabs are crawling on deceased crabs for their final moments of life. It is such a waste of Red Rock, Dungeness and other crab species.

“I had no idea they were killing crabs. We can survive without crab in our diet but by allowing these tires to remain down we create havoc on the balance of nature.”

Fenner and Biffard got to work on submitting a report to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans this spring, requesting help to remove the tires. “We need a commercial diver to get these out,” Fenner indicated.

Their Chemainus Bay Marine Debris Project March 2020 was very thorough, citing the background of the four large barges and associated rigging that sank at the entrance to Chemainus Bay in 2012. The barges were brought in as part of the development of the Chemainus Quay and Marina, a project that eventually failed.

The structures attracted a variety of marine life and became a popular spot for diving in the ensuing years, with depths around the barges ranging from 10 to 20 metres.

The rigging associated with the barges included the four large tires of a heavy mobile equipment type, with an estimated weight of 400 kilograms each and dimensions of 1.5 metres in diameter and 0.7 metres wide. Two tires are stacked and the others are singles.

They laid out the details of how the tires attract and trap both Red Rock, the predominant species in the tires, and Dungeness crabs. Dead and decayed crabs in all stages from lively to moribund, recently dead and partially decomposed were observed.

That was an indication of how crabs are constantly attracted to the tires and then become trapped inside and perish.

The report provided a practical solution for commercial salvage and recycling.

Total budget is estimated at $13,000, including $10,000 for dive salvage and loading for transport and another $3,000 for trucking and recycling.

They were less than pleased with the response they received from DFO that offered little more than a summer student for a couple of hours. Undeterred, Fenner and Biffard had a meeting with North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring to see what he could do.

Siebring was supportive of the tire removal, Fenner indicated, but he told them North Cowichan does not have the funds to take on the project. But at Siebring’s request, North Cowichan’s Environmental Specialist Dave Preikshot has been working with them to motivate DFO to take action. As a scientist, Preikshot has an understanding about the problems these tires cause in the ocean besides the trapping and killing of crabs.

Attempts have been made to greatly reduce the costs associated with the project by getting Tire Stewardship BC, a non-profit society that manages B.C.’s tire recycling program, to take responsibility for the tire disposal. Volunteer boats could also be supplied so only a commercial diver would need to be paid.

But the executive director of Tire Stewardship BC advised they don’t deal with Off The Road tires. They require the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to add them but it is not a priority.

Properly disposing of the tires is a huge challenge since there is no means for recycling them on the Island and they would have to be shipped elsewhere.

“It appears that the project of these tires’ removal and disposal will require the support of many if it is to be realized,” summed up Fenner.

“I am afraid if the public aren’t concerned, we’ll never get these tires out. We need approval to have them dumped on land and someone to pick them up and dispose of them properly. We are working with Tire Stewardship BC and others to have this accomplished.”

But it’s not without hope and some other promising options are in the works.

Environment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Dying crabs are found on top of dead crabs on tires in Chemainus Bay. (Photo by Gord Bell)

Dying crabs are found on top of dead crabs on tires in Chemainus Bay. (Photo by Gord Bell)

Divers take a close look at Tire Four to inspect the number of trapped crabs on it. (Photo submitted)

Divers take a close look at Tire Four to inspect the number of trapped crabs on it. (Photo submitted)

A wolf eel pokes its head out from an area near the barge tires where it feasts on crabs. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)

A wolf eel pokes its head out from an area near the barge tires where it feasts on crabs. (Photo by Kathleen Fenner)

Locations of barges and tires in Chemainus Bay.

Locations of barges and tires in Chemainus Bay.

Just Posted

Cumberland is finalizing its tax rate bylaw for the year, which will see a 4.93 per cent increase. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland moving ahead on 4.93 tax hike

Residential rates’ hike was less than projected during planning stages

The Coastal Fire Centre is looking ahead to the wildfire season on Vancouver Island. (Phil McLachlan – Western News)
Coastal Fire Centre looking ahead at wildfire season on Vancouver Island

‘We’re asking people in the spring to be very careful’

The Connect Warming Centre is located at 685 Cliffe Ave. in Courtenay. File photo
Potential new space for Courtenay warming centre falls through

The Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness had hoped to move the… Continue reading

A rendering shows an “mini urban bazaar” for very small businesses proposed in Cumberland. Image, Cumberland staff report
Cumberland considers microbusiness hub downtown

Applicant will have to host online or outdoor meeting for public input

From left - Rev. Sulin Milne, rector of St Peter’s, Karen Cummins and Bill Henderson of Nature Comox Valley pose for a photo with the newly-planted Garry oak tree. Photo supplied
Young Garry oak planted at St. Peter’s church gardens as a sign of resiliency

By Tony Reynolds Special to The Record St Peter’s Anglican Church, Comox,… Continue reading

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

Police road checks are coming for people travelling between regions while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. clarifies COVID-19 travel restrictions, Lower Mainland a single zone

Vehicle checks on highways, at ferry terminals to start Friday

Victoria police are looking for a 38-year-old man after he allegedly assaulted and choked a missing 15-year-old victim in Beacon Hill Park Tuesday night. (Black Press Media file photo)
15-year-old choked in Beacon Hill tent, Victoria police assaulted while intervening

Police searching for 38-year-old suspect, two officers injured in altercation with park residents

Canadian driver Paul Tracy pulls out of the pits during the morning session at the Molson Indy in Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, July 26, 2003 (CP/Richard Lam)
Vancouver is considering hosting a Formula E race using electric cars

The race would be part of a three-day event focused on climate and sustainability

Chart from the April 20 B.C. budget shows sharp dip in real estate sales early in the COVID-19 pandemic and the even steeper climb since late 2020. (B.C. government)
Hot B.C. housing market drives property transfer tax gains

B.C. budget boosts tobacco, sweet drinks, carbon taxes

President Joe Biden holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. to help Canada with more COVID-19 vaccine supply, Biden says

The U.S. has already provided Canada with about 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

Most Read