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Campbell River tour operators making work of shoreline debris

Group received provincial funding for shoreline cleanup efforts, now underway
A Campbell River Association of Tour Operators Clean Coast, Clean Waters clean up crew. Photo provided.

It’s been just over a month since the Campbell River Association of Tour Operators (CRATO) were awarded provincial Clean Coast, Clean Waters funding, but already crews have removed massive amounts of debris from local shorelines.

This funding is intended to provide work to local tour operators by having them lead cleanup efforts along a stretch of shoreline between Campbell River and Comox. CRATO operators have been budgeting work hours and the use of boats, barges, helicopters and other heavy equipment to perform the work.

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A dozen young adults from the region were also hired to help crew clean-up vessels. So far, they have been training on equipment and safety and learning how to find and sort ocean trash into recyclable, reusable piles, as a way to reduce the amount collected going to landfills.

To date the crews — bolstered by dedicated community volunteers — have collected over 10 tonnes of debris, completing an average of five kilometres of shoreline a day. The 350-kilometre shoreline was broken down into four zones, the first for which, located near Comox, work has already been completed.

“The first five days were relatively simple, with mostly beach clean ups and a good show of volunteers to help scrape the areas,” said Leigh Nelson, employment coordinator and owner of Adventure Quest Canada, in a press release. “It was a good opportunity to train staff and volunteers — plus, to discover best practices for when we got to the tougher areas.”

Currently, the team is conducting both boat and shore operations. These are difficult landing shorelines for crew to find, gather and load super sacks of large Styrofoam blocks, abandoned ropes and fishing nets, according to the release. Tires of all sizes are also found at every site, some reaching up to 350 kilograms.

Volunteers have contributed on a daily basis, showing up for navigating tough terrain, heavy lifting and sorting. Many of the CRATO members have commented that they are amazed at the dedication of volunteers and extremely thankful that they keep showing up for tough work and often in poor weather conditions. The project is set to continue until the end of December.

“It’s shocking, even though we pass these shorelines all season we don’t see what has been pushed up by logs and trapped under rocks, no wonder our marine life are smothered and dying under the weight of ocean garbage,” said Bill Coltart, CRATO president and owner of Big Animal Encounters, in the release.

“Whilst the job is an arduous and precarious one, it has to be done... if we can engage youth and make our community aware at the same time — then it’s a win-win.”

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