The Pacific Rim National Park features many garbage collection sites where good Samaritans compile the messes left behind by others.

Behest of the West: Who’s responsible for the mess?

The same thingamabobs, whozits and whatzits that fascinated Ariel can be fatal to non-fictional sea life.

Ucluelet celebrated Spring Cleaning Day on May 7. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Boundless treasures are laid out for the taking in every driveway and you can celebrate Christmas in May when all the presents are free and you get to choose them all yourself. In turn, smiling neighbours happily come to your house and instead of eating all your food, or drinking all your beer, they take everything you don’t want anymore away. You end the day having either furnished your home without spending a dime or inching ever closer to that magically far-fetched fantasy of actually being able to fit a car in your garage.

Spring Cleaning Eve was perfect at my place but Spring Cleaning Day was nearly a nightmare as I woke up to discover someone had placed a fridge amongst my pile of unwanted clutter. I immediately panicked. I wasn’t sure if fridges were among the list of acceptable items. I knew electronics weren’t and fridges have cords so I figured I was hooped. If that fridge wasn’t picked up, I knew my neighbours wouldn’t take kindly to me leaving it in my driveway and who else’s responsibility would it be but my own to get rid of it?

The Pacific Rim National Park finds itself in a similar, albeit disproportionate, position. Someone has left a totaled fishing vessel in the middle of one of its most stunning beaches and beachgoers aren’t taking kindly to it sitting there. While the spring-cleaning crew graciously took away the discarded fridge that temporarily ruined my Sunday morning, there is no such magical service for the Park to look forward to.

Attempts to reach the vessel’s owner have come up snake eyes and locals and tourists are starting to throw rocks at the Park for not sorting the mess out as if it’s the Park’s fault for being located exactly where the tides decided to carry an abandoned ship.

While the mess the vessel has created is absolutely unsightly—she carried garbage and debris with her onshore that the wind has since deposited throughout the sand—landing on the beach isn’t a bad result as many abandoned vessels wind up on the ocean’s floor. Sunken vessels are not as romantic as The Little Mermaid would have you believe. The same thingamabobs, whozits and whatzits that fascinated Ariel can be fatal to non-fictional sea life.

No one knows who’s responsible for disposing of derelict vessels and there’s no stampede for the bill. In 2012, Transport Canada released a 23-page study on abandoned vessels that recommended forming an inter-jurisdictional working group to find solutions to Canada’s derelict vessel problem. It said the working group should be tasked with providing recommendations on “relevant legislative and regulatory tools and gap analysis to identify all responsible federal, provincial, and municipal authorities.” It also called for recommendations around potential funding sources for removing derelict vessels. These recommendations have fallen into some sort of abyss and neither Christy Clark nor Justin Trudeau seems keen to retrieve them.

The Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities has made nine separate motions since 2004 begging the provincial and federal governments to give an iota of attention to derelict vessels and, according to the AVICC’s April convention minutes, the Union of BC Municipalities has been on board with them. “The UBCM membership has consistently endorsed resolutions calling on the provincial and federal governments to develop a solution to the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels,” they read.

Trudeau made media waves by proving he knew what year it was in 2015, maybe someone should advise him what year Transport Canada identified derelict vessels as an issue. Trudeau’s still somewhat new so it’s hard to be hard on him here, but Clark’s been our premier since 2011. Maybe it will be a sexier election issue next time around.

Before we start shaking our fists at the bigwigs though, let’s do better at home. As I wheezed along Willowbrae on my way to snap a photo of Florencia’s derelict vessel, I passed one of the Park’s many garbage collection sites where good Samaritans compile the messes left behind by others. The usual suspects were all there: single-use coffee cups and water bottles, blobs of Styrofoam that seem to pop up everywhere and cardboard boxes emptied of their treasures by beer drinking beachgoers. The latter is the most heartbreaking to me because we’ll never convince Johnny Law to let us drink on the beach if we can’t prove we’re responsible enough to pick up after ourselves.


Andrew Bailey is the editor of the Westerly News. You can find his weekly column ‘Behest of the West’ on page 4 of our print edition every Wednesday.