BC Marine Trails has been a part of the Vancouver Island Marine Debris Working Group, since 2014. After the great GarBarge project of 2016,
there was no consistent commitment of money from any level of government, to continue clean up efforts along the BC coastline. Many of the individuals, NPOs and businesses committed to continuing their efforts, financial capacity was greatly reduced due to the heavy cost of extraction. Many of the founding members of this working group continue to exert consistent pressure to address ghost fishing gear, marine debris accumulations along the entire coast, fisheries and shellfish aquaculture regulations, and non-polluting alternatives to styrofoam. The accompanying public awareness and concern about the health of coastal ecosystems overall, also supported post-processing of debris, to keep it out of landfills, instead supplying viable product lines. It is easy to see the potential for job creation, but with only a one year commitment, efforts continue to be reliant on volunteers year to year.
DFO will soon be announcing the successful bid to administer a $10 million fund for marine debris removal. In 2020, DFO’s Clean Coast Clean Waters (CCCW) funded the Wilderness Tourism Association and Small Ship Tour Operators Association (SSTOA) who did not work this year due to Covid-19, resulted in the removal of 127 tonnes of debris in 6 weeks that unfortunately ended up in the Port Hardy landfill. Further grant opportunities are soon to be offered that will enable more collaboration, and provide jobs to First Nations and affected communities up and down the coast, from Haida Gwaii to Victoria.
BC Marine Trails is proud to support and contribute to these efforts to maintain our pristine coastal environments. We all benefit from the organizational skills of Living Ocean’s Society’s Karen Wristen,Capt. Josh Temple of Coastal Restoration Society, our partners Rugged Coast ResearchSociety, and Chloe’s Dubois’ commitment to keep debris out of landfills by expanding Ocean Legacy collection depots, and processing facilities in Vancouver. We are honoured to share efforts with the Haida Nation, Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k:tles7et'h’, Hesquiaht and others, now and in future; and the hundreds of residents of Denman, Hornby, Lasqueti and other Gulf Islands, who clean their beaches of 60 - 80 tonnes of debris a year, much of it now generating discussions around new Conditions of License in the shellfish aquaculture industry.
The BCMDWG has developed the capacity to remove derelict vessels, ghost fishing gear, shoreline and underwater debris through organizations such as SeaChange already doing the job. Public Education through partners like Let’s Talk Trash in Powell River, contribute to the growing support to address this significant challenge on our coast. We welcome further consultations with both Provincial and Federal authorities, and hope the decades-long efforts of those who worked in isolation, will finally be acknowledged and supported financially.