The magnificent British Columbia coast might appear pristine, but a closer look along the high tide line reveals a different picture.
Thousands of kilometres of beaches are littered with marine debris.
“You know we have enough styrofoam that we figure could fill an Olympic-size swimming pool,” said Bill Coltart of the Campbell River Association of Tour Operators (CRATO).
Coltart’s group is one of eight that shared $10.5 million in provincial funding last fall to complete five months of coastal shoreline cleanups on the south coast.
“Well, this is the second project we received funding for, so now the total is about 700 kilometres of shoreline that the Campbell River Association of Tour Operators has cleaned, and the net effect is 80 tons to about 85 tons of debris,” he said.
His group has focused on the northern Discovery Islands over the last five months, where there was no shortage of debris to clean.
“We figure we’ve got about 15 tons of steel off the beach from various sources. We have plastic, lots of barrels, yeah, it’s endless,” Coltart added.
“Look, I think you’re always disappointed when you’re seeing rubbish along our coastline,” added Dean Parsonage, a team lead during the cleanup and member of CRATO.
But it goes beyond that when they see actual physical evidence of how it’s affecting wildlife.
“Just everything, every plastic bottle, every oil container, every chunk of styrofoam has got teeth marks and claw marks, everything’s trying to eat it,” he added.
Where is it all coming from?
“You know various sources,” said Coltart. “It’s hard to tell, certainly lots of docks. Boats go by, boats sink, docks sink. There’s industrial debris certainly left over from decades ago that we’re helping to deal with.”
Eighty to 85 per cent of the material is recycled or up-cycled, but the lasting question is, how long will the clean shorelines last?
“It is an endless circle, but while we’ve still got the amount of dock systems that are still in existence in BC that are majority styrofoam, then we’ll continue to see this for years to come,” said Parsonage.