Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

It's time to tackle the Scott Islands

March 19, 2015

We won $10,000 to Clear the Coast!

Clear the Coast volunteers

Thanks to all of you who voted for us day after day in the ADP contest. Because of you we won and we're using the $10,000 grant to help support our Clear the Coast campaign. Photo: Linda Weaver

You'll likely remember that last year, I planned to do some high-res video helicopter surveillance of these islands to see how marine debris was impacting them. Well, while we were in Sea Otter Cove in August, we asked Kathryn Wyks, our helicopter pilot, to take a peek for us.

"Lanz and Cox Islands are choked," Kathryn reported. "From the air I can see tonnes of styrofoam, probably much the same kind of debris as you're seeing here."

The waters surrounding the Scott Islands are designated to become a marine National Wildlife Area, supporting the bird colonies as well as incredibly rich and diverse marine life. Sea otters, not nearly as sociable as their river otter cousins, prefer to hang out here, where few humans ever tread. Plastic marine debris poses a variety of hazards for all of this marine life.

Great blue heron

To get to Lanz and Cox Islands, we're going to need your help!

When my husband and I sailed by Lanz and Cox on the way to Sea Otter Cove, their rocky outcrops looked forbidding. Warnings about the currents at Cape Scott and surrounding the Scott Islands take up pages in our sailing guide, roughly summarized as 'six ways to sink your boat at Cape Scott.' Fog frequently compounds the danger and if the Pacific decides to kick up a storm, it's coming at you all the way from Japan.

I asked Kathryn about the approach. "I think you'll need to plan to have me land you," she replied. Speaking with Jessie Moore at BC Parks about this confirmed the plan. "You might be able to land some kind of boat there in really calm weather—there is a sheltered bay—but to be safe, you'd have to have helicopter backup planned," she warned.

Map of the Scott Islands.

Here's the plan:

We're going to leverage all the great work that our Clear the Coast campaigners Will Soltau and Carmen Pendleton did last year, by doing it pretty much the same way. We'll take a volunteer team out to Sea Otter Cove in a boat large enough to sleep the whole team and we'll get to work clearing Sea Otter, Lowrie and San Josef Bay again this year—we know that there will be another year's accumulation of plastics to remove.

At the same time, we'll watch the weather and sea state for an appropriate time to approach Lanz and Cox, whether by boat or air. There is a very small operational window at the end of summer before weather conditions begin to make access to these islands impossible.

There are a number of groups working on various parts of Vancouver Island's west coast and we co-ordinate with them monthly, so we'll try to organize helicopter support for a day when we can all share it, removing debris from hard-to-access areas onto barges and positioning our teams on Lanz and Cox. Our 'away teams' will likely need to spend a couple of days on the islands, collecting, bagging and preparing debris for transport.

Coastal Cleanup Scrapbook

This is what we need:

Volunteer accommodation vessel- $1,200/day*
Helicopter support
Large herring skiff - $100/day
Debris removal to Coal Harbour by landing craft - $2,400/trip x 2 trips
Food for 12 volunteers x 14 days
Disposal (tipping fees) $115/tonne
Project Design and Supervision - $275/day
Project Administration - $265/day

* 10 days in the Cove plus 4 travel days

Can you help us clean up the Scott Islands?

Would you please consider making a donation to support our work? We're expecting a little help from BC Parks, with whom we have a working agreement for marine debris removal. And we have that grant you helped us win from ADP. There are some other possible grants, but nothing firmed up as of yet.

Join us! Last summer we removed 2.67 tonnes of debris from seven km of shoreline in Sea Otter Cove, Lowrie Bay and San Josef Bay. This included plastics from every Pacific nation including our own. We couldn't have done it without our crew of volunteers. Perhaps you'd like to join us this year for a few days and enjoy this spectacular wilderness, leaving with the knowledge that you helped preserve it for another traveler to enjoy? Sleep on board or camp, as you prefer; enjoy exploring the cove, hiking and fishing in your downtime. Contact me at kwristen [at] if you'd like to lend a hand.

Donate Karen Wristen Best regards,
Karen Wristen