Charges possible after 2,000 aquaculture feed bags wash up on B.C. islands
Published Friday, November 17, 2017 1:58PM PST
Last Updated Monday, November 20, 2017 5:41PM PST
CTV News has learned an aquaculture operation could face charges after thousands of plastic bags were found washed up on several islands southeast of Ucluelet.
A document circulated by Parks Canada staff says that approximately 2,000 large bags, designed to each hold 25 kilograms of aquaculture feed, drifted south from a local aquaculture company and washed up on one of the Broken Group Islands, part of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
CTV News reached out to Parks Canada, which verified the authenticity of the memo but wouldn't say if the debris came from a fish farming operation.
"Parks Canada takes this issue very seriously and has begun cleaning up the debris within the national park reserve," it said in a statement.
The leaked document says that law enforcement officials are investigating the discovery and charges will likely be recommended, but it does not identify the aquaculture company at fault.
It says the plastic bags were discovered Nov. 10 on four major Broken Group Islands.
The extent of the pollution is not yet known because of travel challenges during storm season.
Cleanup of the bags began Friday and continued Saturday, Nov. 11, but the weather has prevented staff from assessing other islands, according to the memo.
The memo says the discovery could attract "significant" media and public attention, connecting it to broader marine debris issues such as the Hanjin shipping container spill in November 2016.
Cynthia Dick, Elected Chief Coun. for Tseshaht First Nation which governs the Broken Group Island, called the pollution "concerning."
"We are concerned for the impact on wildlife and environment," she said. "Why haven't we been told by Parks Canada and are learning this from the media?
Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni, swiftly condemned the discovery and the fact that it was brought to his attention by CTV Vancouver Island.
“The federal government needs to act immediately to mitigate the impact on the environment before it causes further harm to the surrounding sensitive ecosystem,” Johns said in a statement. “It was a year ago this month that these same coasts were littered with debris from the Hanjin spill which has still not been fully cleaned up.”
Johns recently tabled bill M-151, which calls for a national strategy surrounding marine pollution and clean-up.
The leaked memo says if charges are successful, the polluter would be made to cover clean-up costs..
The memo also says the plastic bags could pose a threat to marine wildlife by entangling them, impacting their habitat or being ingested as food.
CTV News has reached out to Parks Canada for more details on who is responsible for the pollution, and why stakeholders weren't immediately notified.