Denman Islanders have been concerned about the growing amount of marine debris washing up on the island for decades, and 20 years ago they started an annual fall cleanup.
“You couldn’t walk your dog, you couldn’t go there with your kids, there would just be plastic debris trash everywhere. That was the normal state of things,” said Dorrie Woodward, president of the Association For Denman Island Marine Stewards (ADIMS).
They’ve collected an average of five tons of debris every year, and another 70 tons in Baynes Sound in 2021.
About 10 per cent of the haul this week was taken to the island’s recycling centre, but most of the debris was taken right off the beach by boat for transport to a sorting station at the Comox Valley Landfill in Cumberland.
“That’s where all the good equipment and all the plastics can be recycled and sent to the Ocean Legacy depot in Vancouver, so it’s way better, we’re now shipping directly to the dump,” said Association For Denman Island Marine Stewards director Liz Johnston.
And unlike the early days, the shellfish industry is taking accountability and getting involved in the cleanup.
“Now the industry is actually becoming involved and is helping us,” added Johnston. “As well, both the federal and the B.C. government are starting to provide funding for these clean ups.”
However, they feel somewhat slighted because while the industry gets funded to clean their mess, the volunteer group gets nothing.
“We think the industry should pay for its own cleanup, but right now the taxpayer is paying for the cleanup, so lets have this straight here folks, but it’s better than doing this alone,” said Woodward.
“You know, there have been countless volunteer hours,” said Lisa Pierce, who is a crew supervisor for the work being done by shellfish growers. “So yesterday, just in five hours, we collected 11 super sacks just on one section of the west side of Denman.”
But it’s not all shellfish industry debris.
One family at the north end of Denman has collected hundreds of lighters.
“When my son was young he said, ‘Do we always see the same lighter?’ So we started taking them home and eventually to date I have about 800 plus,” said long-time resident and volunteer Helen Mason.
More information on ADIMS can be found here.