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Volunteers tackle underwater garbage in Campbell River estuary

Since beginning of project, over 700 tires pulled out of area

By 11:30 a.m. Saturday morning, there were about 70 tires in a dumpster near the Perkins Road Marina in Campbell River, and Phil Griffith was bringing yet another load in on his boat.

“We’ve got 70 in the bin right now, which would make our total up to about 760 or 770 over the last eight years,” Griffith said. “We’re pulling garbage off the bottom, primarily tires that have been used over the years as boat bumpers on docks. The fall in, and people replace them, but they’re just out of sight, out of mind.”

Griffith is part of the Campbell River Salmon Foundation, which is one of the partners on the annual Campbell River estuary clean up project. After taking two years off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things got back up and running this year — this time on the marina side of the estuary.

“We’ve done basically from the kid’s playground all the way to the end of the spit on that side,” Griffith said pointing to the Tyee Spit across the estuary. “To date, we’ve pulled 700 tires and we’ve kind of done that, and then come over to this side for this year.”

“It’s out of site, out of mind, but being a heritage river and a big salmon river, the garbage under there has effect. Lately they’ve found that there is a chemical leaching from the tires that is hazardous to salmon. It keeps them from reproducing,” Griffith said.”It’s been like that for 50 or 60 years. A tire falls off, so you put another one. That’s the way things were done.

“The whole coast is like that and I’m hoping to get something going province-wide. There’s tens of thousands of tires down there,” he said. “Every place there’s been a logging camp or moorage or every estuary that’s been treated like the Campbell, it’s just how it was. No finger pointing, we’re just cleaning up the mess.”

At around 8:30 on Saturday morning, the first volunteers started coming down to the estuary. Divers went out into the water to bring up tires, boat parts, discarded fishing material and anything else that has fallen off docks or boats in the last 50 years. The material was collected, hosed off and carted up to a dumpster to be taken to the landfill. Volunteers from the Tyee Club of Campbell River, the Campbell River Salmon Foundation, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and the Carihi Fly Fishing group all came down to help out.

Between trips out to the diving boats, volunteers had hot chocolate, coffee and snacks that were provided by the River Spirit Dragon Boat Auxiliary. The kids were particularly enamoured with the hot chocolate, but even they helped out bringing some of the goop-covered trash up to the dumpster.

“I think it’s important because they’re the future of conservation and stewardship for our waters,” said Nick Pisterzi, Carihi High Fly-fishing teacher. “Having them out here, especially during spring break, is a testament to their commitment to a healthier world and environment.”

The students themselves agreed. Kaydence Harris said that she was taught in the fly-fishing class about conservation:

“Throughout my time in the Carihi High Fly Fishing Program I was taught about conservation and how important it is to save our rivers and protect fish,” she said. “It’s great that we all just came out with our free time to help out. It’s a great cause and next year more people should come out.”

Tyee Club of B.C. would like to thank the following for making another estuary cleanup a huge success.

- Campbell River Salmon Foundation

- Pacific Salmon Foundation

- Carihi Fly Fishing group

- Mercury Marina

- Dive Safe Campbell River

- The River Spirit Dragon Boat auxillary

- Northwin enviromental

- Contain A Way bin services

- A-Tlegay Fisheries Societies

- The many citizens of Campbell River that came out to help.

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