45 tons of marine debris collected in BC’s southern Discovery Islands

A group of people pose proudly outside in front of a long line of oversized white garbage bags.
Between 18-25 people worked on the project at various stages. Photo by Brendan Kowtecky.
Anastasia Avvakumova - CKTZ - Cortes IslandBC | 29-12-2021
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A marine debris cleanup project based on Quadra Island has finally wrapped up collection and sorting of 45 tons of materials from 357 kilometers of surrounding coastlines this fall.

A person wearing waterproof pants walks on a rocky beach holding a collection bag.

The cleanup focused on the intertidal beach zones of designated islands. Photo by Breanne Quesnel.

Spirit of the West Adventures, a guided kayaking tour company on Quadra, was one of the three organizations awarded funding through the Clean Coast, Clean Waters initiative. The grant is part of the Stronger BC provincial post-pandemic economic recovery plan, and emphasized creating jobs for youth as well as working with First Nations communities.

Breanne Quesnel, co-owner and operator of Spirit of the West Adventures, said in the first few weeks of collection in October, “the volume of debris that we're finding is mind blowing.

Two hands hold a selection of plastic debris recovered from the seashore.

The collection crews' goal was to pick up larger pieces of plastic before the broke down into tiny pieces. Photo by Brendan Kowtecky.

Her teams combed intertidal zones on the shores of primarily Quadra, Read, Maurelle, Cortes, Marina, Grant and Mittlenatch Islands. They covered 34.2 kilometers of shoreline on Cortes, being limited by the funding to areas that had not been recently cleaned through other initiatives.

A digital map shows dark blue water channels around different sized islands.

The general scope of the cleanup operations. Map courtesy of Spirit of the West Adventures.

The fieldwork was anticipated to run for just over a month but in the end took closer to three. Everything had to be sorted, weighed and recorded, and Quesnel said 55 per cent of the total debris was shipped to Ocean Legacy Foundation, a marine-debris-specific recycling facility in Richmond, BC.

A two-column chart has category descriptions on the left and total numbers on the right.

The team created this chart tallying the final weights of collected debris. Photo courtesy of Breanne Quesnel.

The collection teams brought in vast amounts of aquaculture materials, and Quesnel hopes their detailed report might create policy around responsibility for ocean cleanup within the industry. But there were also plenty of consumer goods, and to this end Quesnel urges everyone to make smart purchasing choices to reduce packaging and single-use materials that can easily end up on a pristine beach.

An aerial shot looks down on a wedge-shaped yard completely filled with industrial-sized white bags next to a red-roofed house.

Spirit of the West Adventures co-owners wrote into a local publication explaining they were temporarily sorting massive amounts of marine debris in their front yard. Photo by Brendan Kowtecky.

Listen to the CKTZ News interview with Breanne Quesnel below: