The Sun Sets on our industry-wide marine debris expedition

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Photo: Jeff Reynolds

As the sun sets on another successful marine debris removal expedition, we return to our friends and families with a little more than what we set out with.

Not just 210 tonnes of marine debris – a third more than we originally projected – but a new perspective on this wild and wonderful coast we travel and our place in it.

Our hundred-strong crew collected close to 75,000 plastic bottles across 300 kilometres of remote shoreline. But the real elephant in the room came with the 89,000 kilos of fishing net and rope and 28,000 kilos of plastic floats and dragger balls. We’ve been surprised by the volume, because when you look at our beautiful coastline, so far flung from our towns and cities, you don’t see much debris. But it’s hidden in plain sight – accumulated only on the outer shorelines, and under log drifts and moss.

Getting this debris off of these shores was our main objective, but we’re especially excited to see how much of it can be given new purpose through recycling facilities set up specifically for marine debris – a vision shared by Ocean Legacy and the folks at the Clean Coast, Clean Waters fund. Thanks to them and the coordination of our friends at Fox Disposal, we’re expecting up to 60% of what is brought home will be recycled, a promising step toward a circular economy in BC for marine debris management.

While we are gratified by the legacy we’re leaving with the #BCCoastalCleanup, it’s taught us that there’s a lot more work to be done. We need to address the plastic drifting into our oceans, washing ashore on our beaches and worryingly, endangering wildlife and entering our food chains.

For now, the expedition is complete, the crews and the ships are all home safe and we’re excited to be returning to what we normally do, taking guests out to explore these beautiful places while sharing what we have learned. It’s that ripple effect that is so important in stemming the flow of plastic at its source.

We need to make more than a few acknowledgements; firstly, a thank you to the Government of British Columbia and the Clean Coasts, Clean Waters Fund under the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy for believing in the project’s vision to do a good thing for the coast and provide meaningful employment for our teams. A thank you to the custodians of this land, the Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Heiltsuk, Gitga’at, and Gitxaala First Nations for their permission and support. And a thank you to the Wilderness Tourism Association, the owner/operators of the SSTOA, and the crew on the ground, who every day did the heavy lifting along treacherous, wave-exposed, rocky shores of the of the central and north BC coast. It’s everyone’s collective passion, dedication and cooperation that made biggest coastal clean-up in the province’s history a reality. Thank you.

It’s a new day but our work is far from over. There’s more plastic flowing into our oceans than we could ever hope to tackle through debris removal initiatives alone. It is going to take commitments both large and small to tackle the scale of the plastic pollution crisis in front of us, and we all have a role to play. Keep posted for more news, photos and videos from the field as we continue to advocate for these coasts. This is just the beginning.

Jeff Reynolds, a deckhand and naturalist with Maple Leaf Adventures, who has been involved in the clean up both years, put together a powerful piece of video summarizing our latest expedition. Be sure to give it a watch:


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