ALL HANDS ON DECK FOR CLEANING UP THE COAST: On July 5, B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change George Heyman, Minister for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser and MLA for Nanaimo, Sheila Malcolmson, joined representatives from Surfrider Pacific Rim, the Ucluelet Aquarium, local First Nations, the District of Tofino and the District of Ucluelet for collaborative beach cleaning of George Fraser Islands. (Nora OMalley / Westerly News)

Ministers, MLA Malcolmson tackle Coast’s plastic pollution

“British Columbians are very aware of plastic pollution and they want us to do something about it.”

B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman, B.C. Minister for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser and MLA for Nanaimo, Sheila Malcolmson, spent Friday morning, July 5, beachcombing one of the George Fraser Islands for marine debris.

The politicians were accompanied by Nuu-chah-nulth education worker Jason Sam, Surfrider Pacific Rim chapter manager Lilly Woodbury, and Ucluelet Aquarium micro-plastics researcher Brittany Buirs. Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne and Ucluelet’s Chief Administrative Office Mark Boysen also participated in the collaborative clean up.

Jamie’s Whaling Station Ucluelet chartered the boat.

By spending a morning collecting marine debris alongside local champions of ocean protection, the Ministers and MLA Malcolmson, who was recently appointed special advisor on marine debris to Heyman, were aiming to brainstorm solutions to reduce and recycle plastic.

“We have a great moment here. British Columbians are very aware of plastic pollution and they want us to do something about it. We are prepared to do something about it and we want to work together with British Columbians to do that,” said Heyman.

On June 8, Tofino and Ucluelet officially banned single-use plastic bags and plastic straws.

A couple of days following the West Coast’s plastic ban, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Government of Canada would be working with governments and businesses across Canada to ban single-use plastics like bags, straws, and cutlery as early as 2021.

In March 2019, the European parliament voted overwhelmingly 560 to 35 in favour of banning 10 single-use plastics including cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers by 2021.

READ: Tofino and Ucluelet officially ban plastic bags and straws

READ: Canada to ban single-use plastics in 2021

Fraser, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim, said in under half an hour the group filled up an entire super sack.

“[The beach clean] was an eye-opener for me,” said Fraser.

“Water bottles are horrendous. I don’t know how many meetings I go to where they hand you a plastic bottle. I’m much more sensitive to that even for the photo ops that happen after meetings. I always carry my own bottle and have my own travel mug for coffee or tea.”

“You can legislate this stuff all you want and we may well have to, but you need to have people understanding why they are doing it and need to want to be part of the solution,” Fraser continued.

Malcolmson is dedicating this summer to meeting with coastal British Columbians to learn about the issues that surround abandoned vessels, marine debris, and marine-sourced plastics.

“Our government is determined to find ways to support the groups that are doing this hard work to keep the Coast clean. Also, really find innovative solutions to recycle some of these products; fishing nets, Styrofoam, what can we do to keep them out of landfill? And then finally, choke off the supply in the first place. We don’t want to see pollution, the fishing nets, the Styrofoam, the plastics, on the beach and that’s something our government is determined to fix,” said Malcolmson.

Anyone interested in helping MLA Malcolmson work towards finding solutions to salvage derelict vessels and clean up marine debris is welcome to join the conversation by emailing:

Politicians and ocean protectors pose with their bounty after teaming up for a beach cleanup on a George Fraser Island on July 5.

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