The pristine-looking waters on the west coast of Vancouver Island are hiding a major problem, decades worth of old gear related to commercial fishing and aquaculture.
However, a local organization is taking major steps to clean a lot of it up.
“Phase one of our current projects was a tremendous success in partnership with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and their Guardian Program here in Clayoquot Sound,” said Josh Temple, Executive Director of Coastal Restoration Society. “In just six days we were able to remove over 11 tons of abandoned aquaculture site debris including 28,000 feet of rope and netting.”
Coastal Restoration Society has been cleaning west coast beaches for years, mostly with volunteer help, but now a $700,000 grant from the federal government has kicked it into high gear, allowing for the hiring of over 200 people last year and a recognition of how serious the problem is.
“Ghost gear poses a tremendous risk to a variety of marine wildlife, migratory and domestic wildlife in local watersheds, everything from whales to sea otters, sea lions, migratory birds and fish,” added Temple.
The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation is happy to see years of pollutants cleaned up as it strives for a healthy and vibrant territory.
“We’re trying to have a model that leads to an economic model of abundance, not striving for sustainability but abundance,” said Tla-o-qui-aht Natural Resources Manager Saya Masso.
“I think some days when we wake up and send our various crews out in the field and you look at the vastness of this area and the number of issues like marine pollution and derelict vessels and ghost gear and aquatic invasive species like green crab that we’re dealing with, it can sometimes feel overwhelming,” said Temple.
Temple says it feels like they’re only scratching the surface of what needs to be cleaned up but with government funding in hand and more possible, he’s confident that ghost gear from years past will become a thing of the past.
More visuals of the cleanup can be found at www.olamfilms.com