Clear the Coast
Clear the Coast 2019
As you might guess from the photo, we faced unusual challenges this year from the weather! A southeast, winter-pattern storm closed in on us just after we arrived in Sea Otter Cove with half the crew on board our sailboat, Viajador. We feared that the balance of the crew, arriving by kayak the next day, would be unable to paddle; but they are a highly skilled and hardy lot and found enough of a break in the weather to round the point separating Sea Otter Cove from San Josef Bay and join us.
Our camp site, really the only beach in the Cove with sufficient depth to hold tents at high tide, is properly situated for summer’s northwest winds and took an awful beating from the storm. Viajador, tied to a mooring buoy in the Cove, lost three mooring lines during the storm--chafed right through by the constant pitching of the boat. Another boat moored nearby clocked the wind at 67 knots at its peak. That's hurrican force; nothing we've ever had to deal with before on these expeditions.
The crew rose to the challenge like the champions they are: during the worst of it, they hiked to Lowrie Bay where they were a bit more sheltered and spent a profitable day digging up fishnets partially buried in the sand. Eric Grantner, who's been with us every year, brought a come-along which he used to finally recover a net we've been wanting to get out of the creek at the head of Sea Otter for years. Collection continued throughout the week, regardless of the weather and we ended up reaching all of the beaches we've cleaned for now six consecutive years.
We began the season earlier than usual, accompanying volunteers from the Maritime Museum of British Columbia to Grant Bay for a chilly March cleanup, obtaining materials for an educational display they mounted in April, titled, “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. We spoke at the opening and provided assistance with interpretive materials.
Other hardy volunteers made self-directed trips to Grant Bay and Hecht Beach. And when we arrived at Raft Cove to do a cleanup, we were met by a charming young man who'd already stashed everything int he woods and helped us move it to a cache for the helicopter! Our sincere thanks to all who helped out: you know who you are!
In all, these beaches comprise over 40 linear kilometers of sensitive foreshore habitat and include some of the most popular recreational beaches and anchorages on northern Vancouver Island. Debris was heli-lifted out by West Coast Helicopters on September 3 and trucked to landfill by Dan Carter of Port Hardy. Landfill scales confirm the entry weight was 1.47 tonnes; this did not include 3 bags of debris hand-carried from Grant Bay which we estimated at 300 kilos.
Thanks to our sponsors this year, without whom we could not mount such ambitious expeditions: Boating BC Association, B.C. Parks, Canadian Wildlife Service. Kudos as well to the service providers of the North Island, Dan Carter, West Coast Helicopters and the Quarterdeck Inn for service above and beyond! And as always, thanks to you, our faithful donors, without whom there would have been no hot meals!
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!|
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.
Tell us what you found
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.