Clear the Coast
Clear the Coast 2020
We innovate a bit every year, to try to protect more sensitive foreshore with fewer resources; but 2020 required a total re-think of how we do our work. Our sincere thanks to BC Parks, who supported us in developing a COVID-19 protocol that would let us continue to recover habitat polluted by ocean plastics.
We knew from the start that long boat rides with multiple volunteers on board would just not work, so Karen's sailboat Viajador remained at home while we set up a base camp near Port Hardy.
Volunteers travelled to base camp in their own 'bubbles' for orientation and training, in three separate crews whose arrivals and departures were staggered to ensure physical distancing.
Our first crew went out to new territory for our cleanups: God's Pocket Marine Park, just a short distance from Port Hardy. Hurst Island within the Park was littered with styrofoam from docks and floats.
The second crew landed at Nissen Bight on the Cape Scott Trail, travelling with Cape Scott Water Taxi:
They made camp at Fishermens' Bay and from there, cleaned the beaches at Nissen and Nels Bights. Nissen proved to be the most heavily impacted--the crew filled 9 lift bags and strung some 20 strings of buoys for heli-lifting. It was hard going, hiking over to Nels, as the trail was churned into knee-deep mud by the hundreds of visitors who hiked the Cape Scott Trail this year.
This hawser found at Nissen was probably lost from a tugboat. It was so heavy that it took the entire team to carry it to the debris cache. To reduce the weight, they laid it out in the sun to dry and shed some of the sand.
Nels Bight is a beautiful, long, sandy beach completely exposed to the open Pacific. For years, hikers have been hanging buoys that wash ashore in the trees at the trailheads. While a few of these hanging buoys might constitute 'art', several hundred of them begin to pose risks as they, and the polypropylene ropes they're hanging on, begin to disintegrate. Cape Scott Park is a wilderness park and the ethic is 'leave no trace' camping so, after some discussion with the Park rangers, we decided to remove the hanging buoys.
Our third crew went out to Cape Sutil on the water taxi, toward the end of August. They encountered challenging conditions from the get-go: landing on a steep and rocky shore, muddy trails and cold, wet weather. In true Clear the Coast fashion, they didn't let it stop them!
All told, our recovery this year was just under 3 tonnes. In terms of volume, that was about 30 cubic meters, helicoptered off the beaches to the San Josef Bay parking lot and trucked from there to the 7-Mile Landfill in Port McNeill.
Our work this year was made possible, as always, by the volunteer efforts and genereous donations of our Living Oceans supporters. Grants from BC Parks and Boating BC helped with the hard costs as well. The Canadian Wildlife Service provided helicopter support; and BC Parks lent a hand sorting and securing the debris for trucking. The Regional District of Mount Waddington waived the fees otherwise charged at the landfill. The Port McNeill IGA eased our food budget with a $100 gift card. Service providers on the North Island all went the extra mile for us: thanks to West Coast Helicopters, Cape Scott Water Taxi and the Backpackers' Hostel. Skipper/trucker/gedderdun guy Dan Carter and his crew deserve special thanks for looking after us and our debris! Our most sincere thanks to all of you for making another season of habitat restoration possible!
Our Volunteers make the Difference
|Our 2014 crew dubbed themselves the "geriatric overachievers" and were so much on the go that we never got them all in one place for the group photo!|
|The 2015 crew at San Josef Bay resting amid the thousands of fishing floats found that year.|
|Part of the 2016 crew posing with some of the more unusual debris found in Sea Otter Cove.|
|Who forgot to take the group photo in 2017?? This is the intrepid crew who braved the rain to sort debris at 7-Mile Landfill once the job was done. A total of 54 1.5 cubic meter bags were sent for recycling.|
|We were joined by old friends and new in 2018; including amazing amateur photographer Dr. Charles Lam, who organized our group photos!|
|Not rain, nor wind, nor dark of night stopped this crew, who worked through hurricane-force winds to clear the beaches surrounding Sea Otter Cove.|
Why do we do what we do?
Marine debris can be as harmful to ocean ecosystems as destructive fishing practices. Tonnes of plastic waste are circulating on ocean currents and breaking down into smaller and smaller particles, often ending up on or inside seabirds, marine mammals and fish. Lost fishing gear can entangle and kill many marine species. Closer to shore, debris accumulates on beaches including near-shore waters like estuaries that have a high conservation value. Derelict and abandoned vessels are a threat to pollute harbours and other coastal areas.
Old and derelict vessels are another form of debris and a threat to the marine environment. Their growing presence and disposal is becoming a growing concern for marina operators on B.C.'s coast. These vessels become point sources of pollution, leaking hydrocarbons and other harmful toxins into the ocean. If anchored or abandoned on beaches, they may become hazards to navigation.
Living Oceans has studied how derelict vessels impact marine ecosystems and how lessons learned and best practices from vessel removal efforts in other places can be applied on northern Vancouver Island. This research will provide local harbour managers, marinas and other businesses with a starting point to develop local solutions to the hazards and pollution problems posed by abandoned and derelict vessels.
Ghost fishing gear
Even after it’s lost, fishing gear continues to fish by trapping or entangling sea life. Local organizations and volunteers want to find and remove lost crab traps from recreational fishing areas in and near estuaries. We are collecting the information reported during these cleanup efforts into the Clear the Coast map that shows how and where the ghost gear interacts with important habitat like kelp beds and eelgrass meadows.