After 14 years of Community Beach Cleanups, Denman Island continues to be burdened with an unending flood of industrial plastic debris washing up on its beaches. Each year over 150 volunteers from Denman Island take part in the ADIMS event to tackle this ongoing pollution of their beautiful shoreline.

The beach cleanup has, sadly, become an annual tradition, one that everyone wishes would not have to take place next year. The volume of plastic debris landing on Denman’s shores continues to shock and overwhelm the island community.

This year, 2018, the beach cleanup on Denman alone yielded the largest amount of plastic debris to date, over 6 tons. This is despite this year’s Earth Day spring cleanup, organized in the hope that it would reduce the tonnage of debris collected in the annual fall cleanup.

For the second year, the beach cleanup was expanded to include all of Baynes Sound. ADIMS was joined by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the BC Shellfish Growers Association (BCSGA), who organized beach cleanups of Baynes Sound’s western shores.

Marine debris comes from many sources, including storm drains, fishing boats, and shellfish aquaculture facilities. However, ninety percent (90%) of the plastic debris comes from the shellfish aquaculture industry: oyster trays, anti-predator netting, plastic fencing, plastic net bags, plastic floats, styrofoam floats for rafts, and thousands of pieces of rope.

Baynes Sound is a shellfish aquaculture hotspot. It produces 50% of BC’s commercially grown oysters and clams. And winds and tides drive a huge amount of shellfish growers gear and equipment—it is a plastic-intensive industry—onto Denman Island’s shores.

One Denman volunteer explains, “There is just so much plastic debris continually washing up on our beaches. We just finished cleaning the whole island last September, and there was another smaller cleanup for Earth Day in the spring, and now we are still collecting truckload after truckload just a few months later.”

Denman volunteers worked all week collecting marine debris from the Denman Island shores, on foot and by boat. Over 40 students from Denman Island Community School joined more than 100 community volunteers. Ninety-two year-old Jim McConkey, pictured here, was the eldest volunteer this year.

At the same time, Comox Valley volunteers cleaned up the beaches of Baynes Sound west.

All plastic debris collected on Denman is sorted by volunteers on the Saturday of ‘beach cleanup week’. Ocean Legacy, a nonprofit plastics recycler, transports the many truckloads of plastic to Vancouver, so very little of what is collected goes to the landfill site. All reusable gear and equipment is returned to the shellfish growers whenever possible.

All three organizations (ADIMS, DFO, BCSGA) recognize that marine debris, particularly plastic debris, is a serious environmental concern.  Regardless of the source, it is important that we remove debris from marine environments to prevent the degradation of important habitat.

In addition to being the centre of BC’s shellfish growing industry, Baynes Sound and Lambert Channel support a wide range of species. In particular, this is one of the most important spawning and rearing grounds on the BC coast for Pacific herring.