British Columbia

Marine debris clean-up efforts in jeopardy as funding runs out

Residents of Vancouver Island's west coast are concerned a summer of shoreline clean-up work could be lost if funding can't be found to complete the project.

Months of debris cleanup on the west coast of Vancouver Island could be washed away

The force of the ocean reduced this shipping containers to pieces. (Paul Freimuth/Ukeedaze)

Residents of the west coast of Vancouver Island want the federal government to act fast to make up a funding deficit for a massive marine clean-up effort. 

Volunteers in the Tofino and Ucluelet area spent months collecting foam and other refuse from shipping containers that began washing ashore late last year. 

Collected debris is now waiting to be airlifted from shorelines, but money set aside by Parks Canada has run out. 

Michelle Hall is the chair of the Pacific Rim Surfrider chapter and says they need to act fast or their work will be lost. 

"The money ran out and there's still container pieces left in Ucluelet and still super sacks [of debris] left on the beach which are now at risk of seasonal tides taking them back away," she said. 

Some of the debris displays the logo of the shipping company Hanjin. (Paul Freimuth/Ukeedaze)

Most of the debris is believed to come from the Hanjin Seattle cargo ship that lost 35 empty containers in rough seas near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Nov. 3. 

Hanjin filed for bankruptcy in September and through those proceedings Parks Canada received $76,000 to help clean up shores within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

The money was also used to clean up sites outside the park's boundaries. 

Parks Canada said in a statement Friday that the agency "will be meeting with local, regional and federal partners next week to discuss possible options for removing debris from the remaining two sites." 

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne says she does not want to see local governments make up the difference in funding for the removal. 

"It's just not adequate for local communities to be taking care of their shorelines when it's constant. It's every single day that small items, larger items are washing in," said Osborne. "You could walk the beach every single day and pick up marine debris."

She says she wants to see a better approach to the issue going forward. 

"There needs to be an overall plan and a lead agency. Things should have rolled out a lot faster and a lot smoother than they did," she said.

Osborne says it's not clear how much money is needed to complete the work.