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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Treasures Amongst the Trash

By Kerri Reid

After several years of living out of the province, and away from the ocean, my husband Tyler Brett and I moved to Sointula in June of 2013. I was very happy to join the Sointula staff of Living Oceans in August, as I’ve had a deep concern for the state of our environment, and oceans in particular, since childhood. Tyler and I share a huge appreciation for how stunningly beautiful life on the coast is, so I was glad to volunteer and help clean up the coast a bit in September, joining Will (Living Oceans’ Clear the Coast Project Coordinator) and another volunteer named Rafi Perez, for a marine debris clean up at Cape Palmerston, on the west coast of Vancouver Island where Will had put a collector bag for visitors to pitch in any debris they collected over the summer. We hauled out one collector bag full of debris and an old broken fish tote.

Rafi, Will, and Kerri hauling a broken fish tote off the beach at Cape Palmerston.

Tyler had a back injury and couldn’t make it that day, so we were both keen to volunteer again to help Will with another beach clean-up right here on Malcolm Island in October (or Fogtober as it turned out this year). We headed out in a herring skiff from Rough Bay, towards the lighthouse at Pulteney Point to an area where some large pieces of foam and other plastic were reported to have washed ashore.

Tyler and I love being out on the water, and don’t have our own boat (yet!), so, one reward for cleaning up beaches was a boat ride. Because of the rocky shoreline, we actually got to be in two different boats that day – the herring skiff, and then Will’s little blue dingy that Tyler and I rowed in to shore to gather debris while Will drifted along in the skiff. We were pretty excited already, but there were even more rewards for this small bit of volunteering, which I’ll explain further below.

It didn’t take long for us to start filling up our garbage bags, which we then floated out with other larger pieces of debris out to where Will was waiting to haul the garbage in to the skiff. 

Here is a bunch of debris being floated out to where 
Will was waiting in the skiff.

Will pulling in a barrel Tyler had
floated over to him from shore.

Tyler with a very large piece of foam he retrieved from the beach.

As you can see in these photos, we found a lot of fairly large pieces of foam and other debris. What you can’t see in these photos, and is more difficult to document, are the countless miniscule pieces of foam and plastic littering the shorelines. Much like when I helped with the beach clean-up at Cape Palmerston, I couldn’t help but feel quite incredulous and overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the task at hand – we worked for several hours, until the tide was too high and we had to stop. Though we took away a good load of trash, we managed to cover only a very small stretch of beach.

I had obviously been expecting there to be some debris for us to clean up, but I don’t think I had anticipated how much there would be. Part of my surprise relates to the fact that I grew up on a floating home in the Lynnwood Marina, which is under the Second Narrows Bridge in North Vancouver. I grew up seeing a lot of marine debris, and I attributed what was floating by my childhood home to living in such a busy and industrial location. It’s easier to see where it comes from in a city. Coming across so much trash at locations like Cape Palmerston and even here on Malcolm Island was quite a surprise to me, and I’ve had to quickly adjust my perspective. I now realize that even relatively remote areas are far from “pristine.” But I guess that’s what entices people to go beachcombing -there might be a treasure amongst the trash.  

We actually found two treasures that day!  Tyler found a glass float and I found a glass bottle with a message inside.  Will said the amber glass float is quite a rare discovery on Malcolm Island, but, based on his understanding of the currents in these waters, he didn't think it came from Japan.  So, if it's not from Japan, where is it from?  Where does all the trash come from?

Tyler and I with the glass float.

The answer may be linked to the other treasure – the message in a bottle. We were so excited about finding the glass float, we kind of ingored the bottle. Later, Will got the note out of the bottle and the message read: “My names Joe from Wales. I’m 11”, with a phone number in the UK included.

Did the bottle come all the way from Wales? Will called the phone number, and spoke with Joe from Wales, who, as it turns out, had been visiting his uncle on Sonora Island last August, when he launched his message in a bottle.

Karin and Julie at LOS put together this map showing the possible routes the bottle could have taken to get from Sonora Island to Malcolm Island.

Seeing this map, and the possible routes Joe’s message took to get to Malcolm Island, confirms for me that it is quite likely that a great deal of the garbage we find on beaches around here originates from nearby. Though it’s nice to imagine our glass float having floated all the way over from Japan or the message in the bottle coming from Wales, and it would be somewhat simpler if we could just blame a distant country from across the ocean for all the garbage on our shores, it seems the reality may be that we in Canada can take credit for much of the trash, as well as the treasures, on our beaches.

So Tyler and I have come away from that beach clean-up with Will with further questions about how and why plastics end up in the oceans instead of in landfills, an eagerness to help out in future beach clean-ups, a greater resolve to reduce our own consumption of plastics, and a lovely glass float on our kitchen windowsill to contemplate every day.

For more information on Living Oceans’ Clear the Coast campaign, please see our website here:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday October 25, 2013 – A walk on the wild side

By Kim Wright
Last day at IMPAC3! Enjoying the sun
at Calanques National Park
After five days of meetings in a conference centre in Marseille, which is France’s second largest city after Paris, it felt good to get out and into nature. An aspect of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that was explored at the IMPAC III is their service of recreational opportunities. My Canadian colleagues and I decided on our final day to explore this value first hand.
After a quick ride on the Metro and a long bus journey, we hiked up over the coastal limestone Pyrenee-Province Mountains of the Calanques National Park to the beach. As the only national park in Europe that has land, marine and semi-urban areas within it, it really was a wilderness beside the city. We picnicked on the beach and swam in the Mediterranean and I even took the opportunity to have a nap.
At IMPAC III I learned that about 50% of the planet’s population lives within 100 km of the ocean. So for at least half of us, a trip to the ocean is a realistic option.
In British Columbia we have beautiful MPAs, some near cities, some in remote waterways, many of them with great recreational potential. At Living Oceans we’re working through processes such as the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) to design new MPAs and expand others so they make up a network. The recreational values the MPAs could provide is being considered along with the wildlife they will protect and the commercial seafood they’ll generate.
One of the reasons I attended the conference in Marseille was to increase awareness on the world stage of Canada’s abysmal record at making sure MPAs are used according to their intent. The government sets aside MPAs but doesn’t take the next step and ensure that places in the MPA that sensitive to fishing pressures are protected from industries such as, for instance, commercial fishing. I’m serious.
If MPAs are to retain the recreational value that our rugged coastal beauty provides, there should be no development, or very little, within the boundaries. Nonetheless, small coastal communities can gain significant revenue from visits to wilderness.
Another reason that I attended IMPAC III was to learn about community involvement in MPA design, development, management and enforcement. Most people who live near wilderness areas will tell you that they could never live in a city! They have much to gain from the conservation of those places they love to spend time in. To reap the benefits of MPAs it’s important that they have a chance to identify the places and species that they want to see protected.

As a city dweller, taking time to visits parks on land and in the water is necessary for my personal sanity, giving me an opportunity to “take a walk on the wild side” both in Marseille and here at home in British Columbia.