Cleanup efforts led by the Campbell River Association of Tour Operators (CRATO) have come to an end, resulting in the collection of large amounts of debris from hundreds of miles of local shorelines.
For the provincially funded project, CRATO was responsible for cleaning up approximately 350 kilometers of shoreline on eastern Vancouver Island, from Comox north to Chatham Point, as well as along some islands and coves adjacent continents. Four First Nations bands participated in the project alongside five local tour operators, as well as hired staff and volunteers.
These cleanup efforts, which began in the fall, are now complete.
In total, more than 37 tons of debris were collected.
“We were finding between 1,000 and 2,000 kilograms of debris every 10 kilometers, that’s not bad,” said Bill Coltart, president of CRATO. “It was interesting to see how much debris we were able to remove from the marine environment.”
The recyclable materials collected have been sorted and are now being shipped to the Ocean Legacy recycling facility in Vancouver. This non-profit association specializes in the fight against marine plastic pollution.
Coltart commends the BC government for agreeing to fund the program.
“The province had the foresight to see it could fix two problems,” he said. “One was the fact that tour operators are obviously struggling – and they might be making them work longer than they normally would in a normal season – but also have a significant environmental impact.”
Marine debris — which includes items such as tires, plastics and polystyrene — is often invisible from a boat, Coltart said.
“You think it’s a beautiful, pristine shoreline,” he said. “You just don’t see it – it’s hidden.”
But these materials are revealed at the watermark at high tide, where they have been pushed up by storms and wave action.
“That’s where you start getting huge amounts of debris,” he said.
The difficulty of cleaning was often linked to the tide.
“At low tide it’s pretty easy to look at these beaches and maneuver around, but at high tide it might be a bit more difficult,” Coltart said. “If you’re lucky, we have to move the workers into shallow rehearsals; it’s not steep, rocky shores at this point.
Conditions were difficult during the final stages of the cleanup.
“We have quite a bit of snow and a bit of cold, but we have a strong team working with us,” he said.
Coltart said CRATO encouraged the provincial government to consider funding the project, at least in the short term.
Campbell RiverEnvironmentOcean ProtectionWhale Watching