Ucluelet Elementary School students joined the Ucluelet Aquarium and Emerald Sea Protection Society on World Oceans Day to help clear debris from underneath Ucluelet’s Whiskey Dock. One of the more peculiar items found on the ocean’s floor was a rusted out washing machine. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

VIDEO: Ucluelet students clean harbour for World Oceans Day

“Today we’re making a difference.”

Ucluelet Elementary School’s oceanography students spent a rainy Thursday afternoon removing a surprisingly significant amount of garbage from underneath their local Whiskey Dock.

“It’s International World Oceans Day so we really wanted to do a special project today,” UES principal Jennifer Adamson told the Westerly News at the dock. “It’s a very exciting day.”

She said the school’s Oceanography Class works with a variety of organizations to learn about what’s happening in the ocean around them and to become good stewards of their environment.

“Today we’re making a difference. Our kids are seeing what’s in the ocean and they are loving it,” she said. “They are so excited…They’re seeing little critters and rescuing them and just knowing that all that stuff that’s in the ocean polluting is going to be out and making our ocean healthier.”

She said the school received a Canada 150 grant to help make the work possible and collaborated with

the Emerald Sea Protection Society, the District of Ucluelet, Sonbird Refuse and Recycle, Surfrider Pacific Rim, and the Ucluelet Aquarium to fill the day with valuable education and enjoyment.

Gideon Jones, a director with the Emerald Sea Protection Society was thrilled to be in Ucluelet helping foster a keen interest in ocean health amongst youth.

“One of the most important things we can do for our environment is educate and communicate,” he said.

He said the society’s divers did an initial survey of the area under the dock and found a variety of discarded items like fishing gear, shopping carts and even a washing machine.

“Were retrieving it all,” he said. “We’ve got professionally trained commercial divers down there with lift bags finding the equipment, gathering it into those bags, raising it to the surface and then volunteers are bringing that stuff up to the dock.”

He added the students helped remove ocean critters that had made homes in, and on, the debris and also got a chance to see how garbage affects those critters’ habitats through underwater cameras.

“We’ve got remote cameras that are showing them, while the divers are working on the sea bed, the types of wildlife that are down there and how this wildlife are interacting with the garbage that’s down there and being damaged by it,” he said.

“Through seeing that, the children are inspired hopefully to help the environment when they get a little bit older, but also they’re just aware. Even if they don’t go into any kind of work that protects the environment, they’re maybe just not throwing garbage in the ocean when they’re older. It’s just a really important side of marine stewardship.”

Courtenay-Alberni’s NDP MP Gord Johns was delighted to hear about the work his young constituents put in to improve the health of their environment and touted the West Coast’s schools as solid sources of future ocean stewards.

“It teaches them a lot about single-use plastics and the importance to conserve and protect and educate so that we take care of what’s important to all of us. Local knowledge is fundamental on the West Coast,” he said. “Jen [Adamson] is an incredible leader in our communities. Her and [Wickaninnish Community School] principal Drew Ryan and all the teachers and educators live here for a reason; because they love it. They know the beauty of the region and what’s important to them and they all, for many years at those schools, have been committed to making sure our kids are well educated.”

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