A derelict fishing vessel remained on Florencia Beach on May 17 after crashing onto the sand last month and leaving a sizeable mess for the Pacific Rim National Park to sort out.
The Park’s resource conservation manager Renee Wissink told the Westerly News the cleanup effort would be tricky because Florencia is isolated and offers no access for heavy machinery.
“It’s kind of the worst beach for this to happen,” he said. “[The vessel] theoretically has to be dismantled and the best we could do would be to sling out the metals and other things.”
The Park has been trying to contact the vessel’s owner to work out a solution but has been unable to so far and Wissink is concerned about the amount of debris the tide has already pulled into the ocean.
“We are trying to get some help in removing what’s left from this boat,” he said.
“Unfortunately the tide is doing its relentless work as we speak and the boat is quickly breaking up. There is still a considerable amount of metal on the boat so we’re hoping we can, before it all disappears into the sea, at least salvage the metals and so on and figure out some way to get them off Florencia Beach.”
The vessel had previously sank near Effingham and was towed to Port Alberni in preparation for disposal but it wound up being sold to a West Coast local who attempted to tow it home on April 20, according to Wissink.
“The original plan was that the boat was declared a write off and it was supposed to have been removed from the water and junked but then, I guess, what happened instead was the boat was sold for $1 to a resident of Ahousaht,” he said.
“This resident of Ahousaht was towing it back to Ahousaht when the boat started to take on considerable amounts of water and the pumps couldn’t keep up so it started to go down. It was full of water and they couldn’t tow it anymore.”
He said efforts to retrieve the vessel proved futile.
“My understanding is the Auxiliary Coast Guard from Ucluelet were able to attend the scene but were unable to drag the boat because it was half sunk and they thought it was going to go down the rest of the way. But, it didn’t and ended up on our beach the next day so we’ve been trying to deal with it and the owner since,” Wissink said.
“The good news, I guess, is as part of the previous salvage effort…all the hydrocarbons and oil and hydraulic fluids were cleaned out so there was no dangerous goods or contamination as a result of it ending up on our beach. But, there still is considerable amounts of metal and electronics and other things that we’d like to deal with.”
The vessel crashed onto Florencia Beach on April 21.
“We’re still working on a plan about exactly what we’re going to do. We’re still trying to get the owner to take some responsibility for the boat but, considering he bought it for $1 for parts, we’re not too sure what we’re going to get in terms of help from the owner,” Wissink said.
“There’s lots of parts of old boats that wash up on our various beaches but we would like to deal with some of the metals and electronics and other items that we’d rather not see go out to sea.”
He acknowledged locals have voiced concerns about the vessel and subsequent debris covering Florencia Beach and said the Park shares those concerns.
“We’re doing what we can. It’s a frustrating problem for us too. It’s one of these things we inherit, we don’t budget for and it, kind of, crosses a number of jurisdictional lines,” he said.
“There’s a process we’re required to follow but, at the same time, the twice-daily tides are doing their thing so we understand people’s frustrations and we’re frustrated as well with the problem of derelict vessels and ocean garbage. We’re certainly doing what we can to keep our beaches as clean as we possibly can but so much of it initiates from outside our jurisdiction that it’s an ongoing and frustrating problem for us.”
He suggested the incident sheds an ominous spotlight on Canada’s derelict vessel issue.
“Not just derelict vessels, but the ongoing problem of garbage in the ocean that’s constantly coming ashore. There’s all kinds of sources from: tsunami related debris to dumping garbage at sea to poor management of waste on ships to, in this case, a derelict ship arriving on our Coast,” he said.
“It’s a huge problem, garbage and derelict ships on our Coast, and, I think, in partnership with Transport Canada and others we need to find a larger solution.”
Wissink hopes to see collaborative and multi-jurisdictional efforts find ways to fix the problem.
“I don’t know that there is an easy fix…Transport Canada regulates the boating industry so they have to be part of the solution and I know they’re more than well aware of the issue of derelict vessels and they’re working on that,” he said.
“The fact that [the vessel] ended up on a piece of federal land, in this case a National Park, doesn’t mean that we’re the only part of the solution…The derelict issue is one that is a coastal problem right across this country and all three coasts.”