Surfrider volunteers gather at the Seaplane base dock on Aug. 22 to celebrate a successful expedition to the Broken Group Islands. Over the course of eight-days, the volunteers filled 45 super sacs with marine debris. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Surfrider volunteers clean up Broken Group Islands near Ucluelet

“We cleaned up a very small portion of B.C.’s coastline, but retrieved a mountain of plastic.”

Surfrider Pacific Rim completed an epic eight-day clean up of the Broken Group Islands (BGI) last week.

Led by chapter manager Lilly Woodbury and boat captain Lyle Berzins, the expedition was split into two trips of four days with eight different volunteers for each trip.

“The teams worked incredibly hard and were extremely dedicated to removing the most marine debris they could,” said Woodbury. “It’s beyond inspiring to see volunteers take time off of work to join these efforts, working to clean up plastic pollution caused by the industrial, institutional and commercial sectors in addition to individuals.”

“At the end of the day, we cleaned up a very small portion of B.C.’s coastline, but retrieved a mountain of plastic. We hope that this clean, along with all of the others that are executed by non-profit volunteer organizations, will continue to fuel the movement to address this crisis. Everyone needs to play a part in restoring and protecting the shorelines and preventing marine debris from occurring in the first place, which includes government and the sectors contributing to the problem,” she said.

Located southeast of Ucluelet, the BGI falls within the tribal territory of the Tseshaht First Nation and is part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Zoë Jordan, owner of Ucluelet’s popular Zoë’s Bakery and Café, joined the second team in the BGI to help with the clean up. Jordan also participated in the 2016 District of Ucluelet led clean up of the same area.

“There was definitively a lot more Styrofoam this time. Just bags and bags of Styrofoam. It sounds like a lot of it is coming from broken up docks on the Coast. There is also a lot of fishing debris, floats and oyster baskets,” said Jordan, who operates her bakery as an Ocean Friendly Business and hosts Surfrider’s monthly Stitch and Beach program.

Zoë Jordan drags plastic buoys up the Seaplane Base dock.

Surfrider volunteers collected enough debris to fill a total of 45 ‘super sacs’, with one holding up to 1,000 litres of debris. Out of the 45 super sacs filled, 20 contained foam.

Woodbury said Surfrider continues to be shocked by the amount of Styrofoam and polystyrene that washes up all over the coastline.

“Some of the pieces, like the 10-feet by four-feet by two-feet piece we found, can be collected, but there are millions of micro-sized pieces that litter the shores, inundate the vegetative line, and constantly pose a threat to B.C.’s ecosystems and species. This highlights the extreme need to ban and regulate products and packaging made from this material, in addition to adding plastic waste to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act’s Schedule 1 List of Toxic Substances,” Woodbury wrote in an email to the Westerly.

For volunteer Riley Richters, a Surf Canada Nationals SUP surf finalist, the BGI remote clean made him more aware of his own general plastic consumption.

“You can’t turn it off. Now your eyes just focus on [plastic] wherever you are,” said Richters.

READ: Tofino and Ucluelet mayors react to court’s decision on Victoria’s plastic bag ban

Only 20 pounds of what Surfrider collected was sent to landfill, according to Woodbury. All other debris was sent to the Ocean Legacy Foundation, a Vancouver-based marine debris recycling centre.

The Province of British Columbia is currently seeking feedback on how to reduce plastics overall. People can view and complete the survey by visiting:

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