Throughout August and September of 2020, five BC owned small ship tour operators took part in a six-week expedition that helped clean more than 127 tonnes of debris from over 1000kms of coastline.
The MDRI employed more than 100 individuals, who were based on nine different vessels throughout the duration of the expeditions.
The project was funded by the provincial Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy.
The project was administered by the Wilderness Tourism Association of BC, of which the small ship tour companies are members. Their group, the Small Ship Tour Operators Association (SSTOA), is composed of seven 100% Canadian owned and operated, small-ship-based travel companies that specialize in providing niche wilderness travel experiences for groups of 6-24 guests along the British Columbia coastline. In particular, they operate in the Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, and Great Bear Rainforest regions. They have seen first-hand how marine debris can pile up on remote beaches only to be washed out into the ocean again during the next big storm, where they inevitably break down and become ocean microplastics.
The small ship tour operators developed this innovative project in response to tourism shutdowns due to COVID-19. The ships are self-sufficient so no contact was required with remote communities. The crews, which include several scientists, are also collecting data on the debris they clean up, which they’ll provide to the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy.
1 helicopter assisted in the removal of debris — loading the bags of debris onto a barge. The barge then took the marine debris to northern Vancouver Island for safe disposal in the Seven Mile Landfill.
The Great Bear Rainforest’s outer coast is extremely remote and can be challenging to access. There are no roads and no communities in the regions where the clean up took place. The ecotour operators who took part in the clean up had the appropriate vessels, skills, and experience to access these areas. The use of a helicopter and barge was also used to help transport and store the debris.
Members of the MDRI worked closely with Indigenous leaders in the region. Some of the Indigenous Nations took part in a related inshore coastal cleanup working with more than 75 members of their own communities to help clean debris along the coastlines throughout their regions. “Cleaning up plastic and garbage from beaches has been identified as a priority for our Nation and is critical to the long-term health of the marine environment in our territory,” says Danielle Shaw, Chief Councillor for the Wuikinuxv Nation.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.