Some of the West Coast’s most remote shorelines look a lot more pristine thanks to a massive month-long cleanup effort.
Throughout August, the district of Ucluelet partnered with the Pacific Rim National Park to host five multi-day camping experiences on the Broken Group Islands where volunteer campers cleaned the wilderness around them.
Volunteers, joined by Ucluelet’s environmental and emergency services manager Karla Robison, collected roughly 15 tonnes of debris, which was consolidated into 84 supersacks and slung out by a helicopter onto a barge on Sept. 24.
The 150-foot barge, traveled throughout Vancouver Island coastlines for roughly one week, starting in late September in Cape Scott, and wound up carrying about 40 tonnes of debris to a disposal facility in Richmond, according to Robison. The project was organized by the Vancouver Island Marine Debris Working Group and has been touted as the largest marine debris cleanup effort in Vancouver Island’s history.
The enormous cleanup was funded with the remaining dollars left from a $1 million donation B.C.’s Ministry of Environment received from the Japanese Government in 2013 in an effort to deal with the driftage articles sent towards B.C. in the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Tohoku in March 2011.
The provincial government dished the donation dollars out to the communities expected to be most impacted by tsunami debris and Ucluelet was awarded $81,538 in in 2014 and $30,000 in 2016 for shoreline cleanup efforts in the Ucluelet, Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands, according to Robison.
“The District of Ucluelet is pleased to participate in this unprecedented effort which would have never been possible without the generosity of the Government of Japan and the collaboration efforts from various government agencies, non-profit organizations, business partners and volunteers,” she said.
Ucluelet was one of the first communities to begin putting plans in place to address incoming tsunami debris in 2012 and the community’s early efforts were noticed by local, provincial and federal governments.
These efforts were also noticed by the Japanese Government, which sent delegates to Ucluelet several times for shoreline tours and educational events, according to Robison.
“The relations and co-operation between Japan, British Columbia and coastal communities in response to the disaster and resulting debris signify that by working collectively we can protect our shared marine environment,” she said.
“It is important to share the journey of tsunami debris—respectfully characterized as driftage articles—from the Great East Japan Earthquake. These items allow people to reflect on the tragedy that occurred on March 11, 2011 and to act as a reminder to be prepared for an earthquake and tsunami of a similar magnitude…Driftage articles also act as a stimulus to the larger discussion about the prevention and removal of ocean pollution.”
She added preserving tsunami driftage and attempting to find the rightful owners of found items is important both as a reminder for locals to be prepared and as an act of respect to Japan.
“It’s hoped that future cleanup events, displaying driftage articles, and return of these materials back to Japan may help to bring peace, fond memories and inspiration to the people of Japan and all those affected by the tragic event,” she said.
“Perhaps future displays of driftage articles will act as a memorial to remind each country of our strong bond across the ocean, the many lives affected by the tsunami, and to be prepared for emergencies.”