The Emerald Sea Protection Society crew: Bourton Scott, left, Gideon Leclair-Jones, Ally Stocks, Gabriel Howells, Patrick Geary, and Jen Adamson. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Divers recover over 1,200 kg of debris at Tofino’s First Street Dock

“The problem with the ghost gear is that it keeps fishing.

Surfrider Pacific Rim teamed up with Emerald Sea Protection Society and the Ucluelet Aquarium on March 23 for a ghost fishing gear and debris dive at Tofino’s First Street Dock.

Divers from Emerald Sea collected the underwater debris while volunteers from the Ucluelet Aquarium scraped off about 200 sea creatures to be returned to the ocean.

According to Surfrider remote clean lead Tim Stevenson, over 1,200 kilograms of debris was removed during Saturday’s ghost gear mission.

“Ghost fishing gear is anything that has been forgotten or left behind and was not claimed by its owner. Instead of having it continually catching marine life for the rest of its life, Emerald Sea gets it out of the water,” said Stevenson.

“Just because it’s out of sight, doesn’t mean it’s out of mind,” he went on to say.

“A place that is as active as First Street Dock is a good example of how this debris can sit unnoticed for extreme lengths of time.”

Ucluelet Aquarium staff Brittany Buirs said they saved a variety of invertebrates.

“We pulled up a hag fish trap. That trap allows things to go in, but not out. For example, this greenling that I just found would have been trapped in there for life if we never pulled it up and removed it from the trap,” said Buirs, adding that they retrieved a lot of crabs and sea stars.

VIDEO: Ucluelet Aquarium surveying migration of microplastics

Commercial diver Gabriel Howells helped salvage the debris from the sea floor.

“The problem with the ghost gear is that it keeps fishing,” said Howells.

The maximum fine for littering in the ocean is $2,000, according to Howells. He said he is working on an initiative to change the legislation.

“Instead, we would have it were everyone’s [gear] is tagged. If you lose it, you report it, give us the GPS co-ordinates than we know where it is and we go can get it,” said Howells. “If you don’t report it then there is a penalty.”

According to Stevenson, only about 10 per cent of marine debris washes up.

“The majority of plastics are more negatively buoyant than the surrounding salt water so they’ll actually sink down. Believe it or not, plastic bottles are actually a big part of that. There is a lot [of debris] that never even makes it to the beach,” he said.

Anyone interested in joining Surfrider in their quest to protect the ocean is encouraged to drop in on the next meet up set for Wednesday, April 3 at Ukee Dogs in Ucluelet.

“We’ve got remote cleans every month,” notes Stevenson.

READ MORE: Tofino casts bylaw banning plastic bags and straws

VIDEO: Surfrider’s Stitch n Beach program earns $10K prize

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