Three youth, all wearing masks and raingear, in a barge full of debris.

Beach clean-up in Southern Discovery Islands

A massive beach clean-up is underway in the intertidal zones of the Southern Discovery Islands. 

“The volume of debris we are finding is mind blowing. We are focusing on larger items instead of the tiny little microplastics. We’re trying to get the larger items out before they become the microplastics,” explained Breanne Quesnel. “I know we have some very responsible aquaculture operations in our region, but the amount of aquaculture debris is mind boggling: styrofoam, trays; baskets; nettings and things that have just gotten away at one point – or derelict sites.”

Photo credit: Cleaning up nets from the beach – Courtesy Spirit of the West Adventures
Where the beaches are (Click here to read about the clean-up in Vancouver Island and the northern Discovery Islands) – Map courtesy Spirit of the West Adventures

Her company, Quadra Island based Spirit of the West Adventures on Quadra Island, obtained the the contract to clean up between 200 and 400 kilometres of shoreline on Quadra, Maurelle, Read, Cortes and Marina Islands. It is part of the Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative, a provincially funded program supporting coastal communities as they recover from the COVID-19 economic downturn and loss of tourism.

“We have just over a month to get to all those, and so far we are on track,” said Quesnel.

Spirit of the West was working in Granite Bay and Kanish Bay, on the northern end of Quadra, when Cortes Currents caught up with them on October 14th. 

“Yesterday we were just focused at the very [southern] tip of Quadra Island, from Francisco Point around to Tsa Kwa Luten Lodge. We have a 28 foot landing craft that we are using as part of this and it was stuffed to the gills. We had to stuff more debris, in order to come back for it,” said Quesnel. “So far we’ve cleaned around Marina, some of the north end of Cortes and south end of Quadra. We’re kind of weather and tide dependant, so it’s picking the best place, the best time.”

She expects to collect 50 tons of debris. 

Cleaning up at the top of the intertidal zone – Courtesy Spirit of the West Adventures

There are 18 to 20 people collecting debris on any given day and a support team of 4 or 5 behind the scenes.  Many are local youth, specifically hired for this project. A couple are from local Indigenous Nations.

Most of the debris is destined for the Oceans Legacy Foundation marine debris facility in Richmond.

Oceans Legacy and Fishing for Plastic teamed up for another beach clean-up in our area last Spring.

Kelli Turner, Managing Director at Desolation Sound Ocean Protection and Research Foundation (as well as the new Cortes Bay to Lund water taxi service), was one of the participants. 

He said they cleaned the eastern shore of Cortes Island, from the northern tip down to the Twin Islands, as well as “a good chunk of Desolation Sound,” Hernando Island and Savary Island.

The Klahoose Nations provided monitors for the work on Cortes Island.

“Shoreline clean-up is one of our big and true heart loves. We try to support a lot of that stuff with the funds we are able to get from moving people and growing the company,” said Turner.

Ten youth, wearing masks
Some of the crew – Photo courtesy Spirit of the West Adventures

“It can be very easy to be overwhelmed by the staggering volumes of debris, not having real control and it getting to the ocean in the first place. A lot of this is docks and industry, as well as consumer goods like plastics,” added Quesnel. “I think we just really need to focus on what kinds of changes we can make on a daily basis and what we can control. Starting at home and thinking with small and then just using our voices, of course, to try and encourage the government and industry to be more proactive so that this debris doesn’t end up in the ocean in the first place.”   

Top photo credit: Three of the youth hired to clean up beaches in the southern Discovery Islands – Photo courtesy Spirit of the West Adventures

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