Few things are as disheartening for locals and tourists as seeing discarded plastics and trash along an otherwise pristine coastline.
Provincial Parliamentary Secretary for Environment Kelly Greene noted in a press conference Thursday afternoon the B.C. coast is a “unique and celebrated ecological region, but its beauty is being threatened by plastic pollution.”
In an attempt to tackle the pollution problem, while also employing people negatively affected by the pandemic job shortage, the province launched the Clean Coast, Clean Water initiative last year.
To date it has helped remove more than 550 tonnes of fishing gear, plastics and polystyrene foam from B.C.’s beaches, Green noted.
“It has also created employment for hundreds of people, including youth whose job prospects were particularly hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.
An additional $3.6 Million will now be distributed to three organizations, including one from Campbell River, another from the Discovery Islands, and a third from Haida Gwaii, so more than a thousand kilometres of shorelines will be cleaned up, and 240 jobs will be created.
The Campbell River Association of Tour Operators will receive $767,000 in funding to remove marine debris from approximately 350km of shoreline from Campbell River south to Comox.
The organization’s vice president, Lee Nelson said the endeavour is a worthwhile one.
“It will go to great lengths to keep struggling tourism operators, their employees and a number of youth working during a time of continuing uncertainty and reduced tourism revenues,” he said.
“When tourism travel does return, this initiative will help to ensure that B.C. sure is super natural British Columbia – ensuring that our coastline is clean and free from plastic pollution and debris for our local residents and tourists alike.”
The work will be done in partnership with the K’omoks First Nation, and the project aims to create 61 jobs.
A kayak tour guide operator across the water in Heriot Bay will also look to lend a hand.
Breanne Quesnel, co-owner of Quadra Island’s Spirit of the West Adventures, said she is “thrilled to be part of such a great project.”
“Especially after such a tenuous year for tourism, we’re grateful to be able to provide this work to our staff, including local youth.”
Groups have been working on cleaning the Discovery Islands coastline on a volunteer basis, Quesnel explained.
“But a lot of these places are difficult to reach, and have large awkward debris to remove, so we’re quite thrilled with the ability to help that process,” she said.
Spirit of the West Adventures will work with the Homalco Nation and clean up between 200 and 400 kilometres of shoreline.
The project is expected to create 33 jobs, and will receive $563,000 in funding.
“The Clean Coast, Clean Waters initiative has shown what can be accomplished when First Nations, local communities and businesses work together,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Creating jobs to remove marine debris and waste from our shoreline is a win-win situation that protects our environment and builds a cleaner, more circular economy for all British Columbians.”