Volunteers made a “Plastic Goddess” from some of the debris. Photo by Gerry Ambury

Denman Island volunteers clean up at least eight tonnes of beach debris

Aquaculture helps cleanup, but volunteers say its plastic equipment is part of problem

For the last 15 years, Denman Islanders have been hitting the beach to clean up debris.

More recently, a lot of what has been showing up is detritus from aquaculture, particularly from the growing shellfish industry in the region.

“The industry needs a system…. They need to go and get their plastic,” said Association of Denman Island Stewards (ADIMS) chair Dorrie Woodward. “It’s not for volunteers ultimately to solve this problem.”

Organizers from ADIMS estimate they collected between eight and nine tonnes of junk from the beach – a 30-per-cent increase over the amount from 2018 – during the latest cleanup.

The main cleanup day was Sept. 28, which attracted about 65 people, but work started in the days leading up to the event. In all, including schoolchildren and organizations like BC Ferries and its CEO Mark Collins, about 150 people took part in the effort on Denman.

RELATED STORY: Ferries employees participating in Denman Island cleanup for plastic-shedding ferry

Woodward said, after an invite a few years back, representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the BC Shellfish Growers Association (BCSGA) started helping cleaning up the beach on the Vancouver Island shore of Baynes Sound.

“This is the third year that BCSGA … and DFO have joined us in doing the cleanup,” she said. “They have organized cleanups on the other side.”

Darlene Winterburn, BCSGA executive director, confirmed the industry took part in the Big Beach Cleanup.

“Farmers in the Deep Bay area led a cleanup effort in their area and another group of farmers walked from the Goose Spit to Point Holmes to collect debris. The BCSGA led formal beach cleanups on Tuesday and Wednesday; over 100 volunteers walked beaches from the edge of Courtenay down to Fanny Bay Oysters,” she said via email.

Other volunteers accessed drop-off areas to bring debris to a sorting area, while aquaculture farmers on Denman focused on their own sites, Winterburn said. As of Monday, groups of farmers were moving debris collected on Denman over this last year to Vancouver Island for disposal and recycling. The BCSGA also leased a grinding machine to crush the plastic trays to take up less room on trucks hauling plastic to be recycled at Ocean Legacy.

While the organizers appreciate the help from the BCSGA and shellfish farmers, they feel it should really be up to the industry to clean up its own mess.

“It’s long past time for Fisheries and Oceans, the regulator, and the shellfish growing industry itself, to take responsibility for labelling, securing and controlling aquaculture gear and equipment on and off tenures and rafts,” cleanup organizer Liz Johnston said in a news release.

The problem of plastic debris has gotten worse in recent years, Woodward said, because of changes in the market, or what she calls the “gentrification” of the industry. For example, the industry started growing oysters on the half shell in plastic baskets.

“Every bar had to have its half-shell oyster, and that’s a much more complicated thing,” says Woodward. “A lot of it involves plastic.”

These baskets are submerged constantly and all too often break loose or are swept away, ending up on the shores of places like Denman Island, along with other plastic equipment.

If one thing has gotten easier in recent years for groups like ADIMS, it’s that they are no longer on the fringe when it comes to concerns about plastic ending up in the ocean.

“A lot of the time, issues about plastic coming ashore and everything were like non-issues,” Woodward said. “We were a voice in the wilderness…. Now, we’re kind of in the middle of what’s more accepted, and we like it.”



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Plastic baskets from aquaculture were a key item found. Photo by Gerry Ambury

Just Posted

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

Ucluelet Aquarium wraps up season with release day event

Residents help release charismatic critters on Dec. 7.

Tofino shops set to sparkle during weekend’s Jingle Into Christmas celebration

“It’s like a family reunion. It’s nice to see the locals’ faces.”

Child care sector feels the squeeze in Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District

There are five children for every licensed child care space in the ACRD

Surfrider Pacific Rim hopes unique wetsuit recycling program stays local to the Coast

“We really want to see someone locally or regionally take this on and use this material locally.”

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Brain injury from domestic abuse a ‘public health crisis,’ says B.C. researcher

Nearly 80% of the domestic violence victims who reported to police last year were women

Most Read