Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Biggest Marine Cleanup in Canadian History Faces Shortfall

August 5, 2016
Living Oceans appeals for funds to bring the 'GarBarge' home.

Friday, August 5, 2016:  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Vancouver:  Living Oceans Society today issued a general appeal for funds to be able to complete the largest collection of marine debris ever attempted in Canada. Executive Director Karen Wristen said the operation was premised on the donation of a barge by Seaspan Marine and the group sought the donation of tug services from the Canadian Navy.  On August 2, the Navy advised that it would not assist, leaving the group scrambling for funds to pay a commercial operator to move an estimated 40 tonnes of debris from Vancouver Island’s remote and rugged west coast.

Volunteers have been working throughout the summer to collect and bag tsunami and other debris for shipment in September to recycling facilities in the Lower Mainland. Living Oceans has been co-ordinating the effort, with a view to minimizing the pressure on Vancouver Island’s landfills. “Only limited recycling is available on the Island and none for the industrial plastics we’re recovering,” said Project Manager Rob O’Dea. “The idea behind the ‘GarBarge’ was to get as much as possible into the hands of recyclers that are located in the Lower Mainland.”

“We had hoped the Navy would view this in much the same light as the weather disasters for which they provide assistance,” said Wristen. “We’re not just talking about moving some trash off the beach here:  this is plastic that is getting into the food chain and poses a real threat to our fisheries and marine mammals. As disasters go, it’s unfolding more slowly than a weather event but it’s nonetheless consequential.”

Science is advancing quickly in the assessment of plastic marine debris impacts on various species and it is now clear that plastic ingestion is occurring at several trophic levels in the ocean. Larger animals may ingest plastics directly as well as through their prey species, getting an extra dose of the persistent organic pollutants that stick to plastic marine debris. “If a species isn’t killed directly by the physical impact of the plastic it ingests, the pollutants that come with it can have long term genetic effects,” said Wristen. “We have to have a solution and for now, the only thing that really works is to remove the items that strand on beaches to prevent them from refloating, breaking up and getting eaten.”

Tax-receiptable donations to assist the operation can be made to Canadian Coastal Research Society or Living Oceans Society, via



Contact Information

Karen Wristen, Executive Director 604-788-5634

Rob O’Dea, Project Manager, 604 657-1999