The Discovery Passage Aquarium spent Friday—World Oceans Day—on the waterfront doing their part to keep the shores clean.
A small group wearing rubber gloves and carrying garbage bags tackled the area around Roberts Reach over the lunch hour to scoop up an assortment of refuse over an hour or so.
“We’ve been picking up some pretty strange things today,” aquarium manager Ricky Belanger said. “We’re actually getting lots of stuff.”
World Oceans Day events happen around the world every June 8. On Friday, Belanger and staff member Isaak Haberman were joined by volunteer Roleen Sevillena, who only recently moved to Campbell River and happened to hear about the event. The items they found included styrofoam, cardboard, pieces of plastic, underwear and other clothing, aquaculture debris, broken bottles, evenHalloween Decorations in the form of a severed finger. At one point, Belanger even dug up something he could not identify.
“I don’t even know what this is,” he said.
Needles are probably the biggest concern. Belanger said from his experiences on other marine research projects, scientists need to be warned to be on the lookout for the items while working in these areas.
Then there are the plastic six-pack holders, an item often seen as a threat to marine life and birds because the rings can trap animals around the neck. At one point, Belanger walked over to the garbage bags to toss out one of the plastic rings, though he pointed out there are fewer than there used to be.
“It’s the one thing you don’t see as much anymore,” he said.
Another favourite piece of trash is cigarette butts. Some people assume the butts are only paper and plant material but the toxic chemicals in cigarettes can prevent their breaking down. Even with public education, some people are not getting the message about littering, whether by the ocean or anywhere else. Belanger points out staff have seen people toss out garbage from their vehicles.
“We’ve seen people throw trash out the window right next to the aquarium,” he said.
Friday’s clean-up site seems to be a favourite spot to discard items. Another reason the aquarium chose it is that it is an area that provides a lot of the marine life at the facility. Belanger explained the clean-up is a good way of giving back to the marine life by improving their immediate environment.
Friday’s event is just the start of many things for the Discovery Aquarium in the coming months, as Belanger expects regular clean-ups along the ocean.
“We’re going to try to get groups of 10, 12, 15 people later in the summer,” he said.
The facility is planning more outreach programming. One of the new additions is a touch tank display in the aquarium, containing creatures such as starfish that people can see up close, and even touch. It is also holding a contest on its Facebook page for the public to name the new female octopus that arrived recently. It will run to Friday.
On Friday though, with the focus on trash, the group managed to make dent in the stretch of beach front, picking up enough junk to fill a few bags full.
“We’ve made a lot of progress today, and we will be back,” Belanger added.