We’ve all seen the horrifying photos of dead whales and seabirds cut open to reveal stomachs full of plastics.
Thanks to years of awareness-raising and advocacy by environmental organizations it feels like government is finally ready to take some action. In 2017 our MP Gord Johns introduced a motion to combat marine plastics pollution. It passed unanimously in 2018.
In addition, the feds have banned six single-use plastic items to be phased out by 2022. Funds have been made available to remove plastics from the ocean and beaches. However, not much has been done to regulate the source of most of the plastic waste we find on our beaches here on Baynes Sound.
Denman Islanders are beach walkers and we notice what washes ashore. Last year we pulled six tons of waste off the beach, most of it plastic and most of it generated by the shellfish industry. This is two more tons than 10 years ago!
Not only has this industry not curbed their littering of our ocean and beaches; they have introduced a new plastic product! It looks like a strand of black or white seaweed. It is the zip or cable tie. To release these ties, workers just snip them and let them fall into the ocean. Handy, but at what cost? This plastic breaks down into microplastics; I have found zip ties on the beach that were so brittle they crumbled in my hand. Microplastics get consumed by marine life and then by us. We all know this!
DFO and BC Shellfish Growers Association (BCSGA) have been made aware that these zip ties are washing up in significant numbers. Unlike BC Ferries who quickly took steps to mitigate the problem of bits of their plastic cable lining washing up on our shores, the aquaculture industry, left to self-monitor by an under-staffed DFO, has not responded to complaints.
C’mon guys, get with the program! Educate your workers to think green and obey conditions of licence which “prohibit the introduction of refuse into the marine environment.” What you are carelessly tossing into the ocean is affecting your product and, along with all your other plastic refuse, will eventually make shellfish unsafe for human consumption.
At the very least, how about workers putting used zip ties in fanny packs instead of in the ocean? As an added incentive to refrain from polluting, they could switch to using reusable releasable ties. This is a compromise; hopefully the day will come when putting plastics into the ocean will be as unthinkable as smoking in a crowded restaurant is today.
Mary Jane Stewart,