Nova Scotia

Cape Breton environmental group plans cleanup at Donkin beach

Environmental volunteers who have targeted illegal dump sites in Cape Breton Regional Municipality are turning their attention to fishing gear washed ashore on local beaches.

Organization that has identified illegal dump sites turns attention to fishing gear washed ashore

Dylan Yates, president of the Cape Breton Environmental Association, says the group he heads plans to help tidy up some beaches, starting next weekend in Donkin. (George Mortimer/CBC)

A group of volunteers in Glace Bay, N.S., says fishing gear blown ashore at a beach in nearby Donkin is a threat to birds and marine life and it plans to address the problem.

The Cape Breton Environmental Association also says other beaches across the island are affected by debris from the fishing industry.

The group has been working with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to identify illegal dump sites, but is branching out.

Dylan Yates, president of the organization, said members are now turning their attention to the beach at Schooner Pond.

"We have a lot of lobster traps here that are partially buried that are just lying on the shoreline itself, free to float right back into the ocean," he said. "We have various ropes of all different sizes, lots of common trash as well, plastics, and we have some tires out here."

The gear that gets pulled back into the water by the tide can put local wildlife at risk. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Yates said the gear that gets pulled back into the water by the tide could put local wildlife at risk, but it also affects people who walk the shoreline.

"All of this stuff washes out and this area is heavily used by a variety of marine life — aquatic birds, seals [and] whales come in these little bays," he said.

"So that is my No. 1 concern. All of this debris going back into the ocean, if left unattended, the animals could get entangled in this stuff."

But there is a social component as well.

"People come to these beaches to enjoy nature and have a good day with family," he said, "and then they have to deal with seeing all this debris and it becomes a hazard for the young children who are playing on the beach."

Public invited to help

Yates said the public is invited to the environmental association's community beach cleanup on June 30 from noon-3 p.m.

Coun. Amanda McDougall said the municipality will help the group dispose of debris from the beach.

"For us at the CBRM, it's a no-brainer to say, 'Yeah, we'll be out, we'll pick up any of the garbage collected,'" she said.

Once that cleanup is done, Yates said the group will focus on other Cape Breton beaches, including the one in Inverness.

He said anyone who finds debris needing to be cleaned up should contact the group on its Facebook page.

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George Mortimer is a longtime reporter in Cape Breton.