Volunteers found bags like this one discovered by Sarah Greenwood during a cleanup of Schooner Cove hosted by Surfrider Pacific Rim as well as Combers Beach on Saturday. (Nora O’Malley Photo)

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve discovers thousands of aquaculture bags washed up near Ucluelet

“Parks Canada is investigating the incident.”

About 2,000 aquaculture feed-bags have been discovered washed up around the Broken Group Islands near Ucluelet.

“On Friday November 10, Parks Canada discovered that a large number of aquaculture feed bags had washed up on the shores of several islands in the Broken Group Islands in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve,” Parks Canada wrote in a statement to the Westerly News.

“Parks Canada takes this issue very seriously and has begun cleaning up the debris within the national park reserve. Approximately 2,000 plastic bags have been removed from four of the inner islands. As storm season makes it challenging to reach all areas of the Broken Group Islands, Parks Canada will continue to assess the scope of the incident and clean up debris within the park reserve as weather permits. Parks Canada is investigating the incident.”

Grant Warkentin, a spokesperson for local aquaculture company Cermaq Canada, told the Westerly News that Cermaq is looking into the matter, but suggested the company does not use the type of 25-kilogram bags being reported to have washed up and also noted Cermaq’s farm sites are off Tofino, roughly 51 kilometres from the Broken Group Islands.

“We use exclusively one tonne feed bags…We don’t use 25 kilogram feed bags,” Warkentin said. “That’s far away from any of our operations. Our feed usually comes in by truck into Tofino where it’s loaded onto our barges in Tofino and goes out to our sites from there, so this is way far away from there.”

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns issued a statement Friday urging the federal government to immediately respond and clean up the bags.

“The federal government needs to act immediately to mitigate the impact on the environment before it causes further harm to the surrounding sensitive ecosystem,” Johns said. “It was a year ago this month that these same coasts were littered with debris from the Hanjin spill which has still not been fully cleaned up.”

Johns had been adamant that Canada needs a national strategy to address marine debris and ocean pollution.

“The government simply does not have a plan to respond to marine debris incidents like this,” Johns said. “Adding insult to injury, we are only finding out about this incident through the media while local governments and First Nations have not been advised and the many mariners in our coastal communities who are out on the water and the shores have been left in the dark for more than one week,” he added.

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