Wildlife tour groups aim to clean up 90 tons of marine debris in 90 days
A group of wildlife tour operators on Vancouver Island have banded together to help extend their season while cleaning up the environment.
The operators have created the “Clean Coast, Clean Waters” initiative, which hopes to collect 90 tons of debris in 90 days from an area extending from Comox to the Discovery Islands.
"This is going to be primarily marine debris, so marine plastics, ropes, derelict pieces of styrofoam out of docks that have been let go or washed away in storms," says Bill Coltart, president of the Campbell River Association of Tour Operators.
Coltart says the group did an initial assessment around the region frequented by whale- and bear-watching companies to get an idea of where cleanups need to occur. He says local companies are ideally equipped to handle the task.
"Campbell River is pretty central within the project itself,” he says. “We've got a marine terminal here that we're able to use a landing craft to bring in super sacks, we'll have large 4x4x4 sacks that will come off the landing craft and be able to be off-loaded onto our marine terminal and then processed there.”
The association has received $767,000 from the provincial government as part of the effort to clean up shorelines from Victoria to the north coast.
"A lot of that falls under a youth employment initiative, so we're going to be looking to hire youth under the age of 30 to do both the beach cleanup portion with us as well as the recycling and sorting back at our marine terminal," Coltart says.
In addition to students, the project is also hoping to utilize at least 60 volunteers from the public, as well as area companies looking to get involved.
Coltart is predicting the project will extend the wildlife tour season for the companies involved, taking it beyond the six to eight weeks it had been reduced to by the lack of international visitors.
The association's secretary Cathy Kaardal says the group put out “feelers” into the community last week about the project and there has already been a tremendous response.
"Immediately, we got people that had been involved in other cleanup projects wanting to jump on board,” Kaardal says. “They'd noticed the mess that we had we had around this area and around Discovery Islands and how beautiful it is and they wanted to help out.”
Noting that many communities do cleanups along their immediate shorelines, Kaardal says this is the first time the public has been given the chance to travel on whale- and bear-watching vessels to do such efforts.
"That is the bonus, because you are going to be travelling around the Discovery Islands, probably one of the most beautiful places on the earth and you're going to be on the beach, that's what you're going to be doing," she says.
Individuals or companies looking to get involved in the effort can contact Kaardal by emailing email@example.com.