A volunteer with a group that annually cleans the shoreline of Denman Island says the latest storms will mean more shellfish-growing gear will wash up.
“We know every storm the tide brings something new and we’ve just finished this project with still some piles that need to be extracted and it’s already starting to come in with this storm,” said Liz Johnston, Coordinator of the Association of Denman Island Stewards.
Near the shoreline where she lives, Liz Johnston has collected a pile of debris in just the past four days.
This past September saw the largest shoreline cleanup in the region with provincial funding from the Clean Coasts, Clean Waters program. More than 36 tons of debris were collected.
But each year on Denman Island alone volunteers find four to eight tonnes of litter and over 95 per cent of it comes from the shellfish industry.
“We could probably walk across Baynes Sound. We wouldn’t need a cable ferry with the amount of debris we’ve collected. It’s just ton after ton after ton of mostly plastic,” said Johnston.
More than 50 per cent of all B.C.’s commercial shellfish is harvested in Baynes Sound.
The BC Shellfish Grower’s Association launched a Shellfish Farm Environmental Plan in the spring to reduce industry debris getting into the waters.
“We can see that we’ve got way more work to do in terms of cleaning up debris associated with the industry. Every spring and fall we have cleanups we conduct to collect debris that’s been lost due to storms as we have right now,” said Jim Russell, Executive Director of the BC Shellfish Growers Association.
The association notes some shellfish growers aren’t a part of its membership.
Johnston says fisheries and oceans are partly to blame for a lack of enforcement.
“They’re creating tools and they’re trying but it’s too long coming.”
In a statement, Fisheries and Oceans says by April 1, 2023, all applicable shellfish aquaculture gear must be legibly marked with identification.
It says it’s also handed out multiple $863 fines this year for aquaculture equipment which was found not secured, as required.