P.E.I. beach cleanups ill-timed, says Nature Trust

Well-meaning Islanders who want to clean up Island beaches this time of year should temporarily park their good intentions, Island Nature Trust says.

'There's a time and a place to do these things'

Sensitive wildlife may be using the beaches to fledge their youn, and people should tread carefully, says Island Nature Trust. (Sara Fraser/CBC)

Well-meaning Islanders who want to clean up Island beaches this time of year should temporarily park their good intentions, Island Nature Trust says. 

Upstreet Craft Brewing has planned a cleanup of 11 Island beaches next weekend and brought on several other P.E.I. businesses to host the events and offer small rewards to volunteers — everything from coffee to a yoga class to lunch. 

"May-June and the beginning of July, it's our practise to never do intensive beach cleanups during that period," said Megan Harris, executive director of Island Nature Trust. 

"That is the premiere breeding period for many migratory birds and other wildlife that are using the estuaries, the wetlands associated with them, the dunes and back-dunes."

Noting it is difficult to speak out against an effort with such good intentions, Harris said she couldn't ignore something that was "not well thought out."

"By doing cleanup this time of year, you are jeopardizing that part of their reproductive cycle," Harris said. 

'Try to make this work'

Upstreet contacted the Nature Trust before launching the cleanup for June 24, and Harris said her group expressed its concerns.

The Trust would like to see the cleanup delayed at least a month. 

'We're going to try to make this work,' says Mikey Wasnidge, marketing and events manager at Upstreet Craft Brewing. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

"[They] gave us a list of beaches to avoid," said Mikey Wasnidge, Upstreet's marketing and special events manager, who also spoke with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. 

"We're going to work with both of these groups to make sure we do this right and if in the end it doesn't work we're going to have to pull the plug," Wasnidge added. 

Wasnidge worries not as many people would volunteer for beach cleanup at the end of summer. "I think everybody wants to have clean beaches for the summer months," he said. "All of the businesses that are on board, I think, feel the same way... we're going to try to make this work."

'There's a time and a place'

Many Islanders do walk the beach every day and pick up garbage, and that can be helpful, Harris said. But larger-scale, more wide-ranging efforts that include removing fishing gear may disturb shy, quiet wildlife. 

"When you get large groups of people in that habitat pulling things out and, despite the best of intentions, not recognizing alarm calls and other cues that those wildlife are using to show they are upset," Harris said, can cause wildlife to abandon their nests or vulnerable young. 

'There's a time and a place to do these things,' says Megan Harris of Island Nature Trust. (CBC)

"I applaud them for organizing something, but I really feel like there was enough information given to them that they could have delayed the event," Harris said. 

"There's a time and a place to do these things... we would be happy to partner with them at a different time of year."

The Nature Conservancy of Canada said it heard from Upstreet and the brewery seems to be taking the right precautions.

It said Upstreet is planning to involve people who can identify piping plover nesting areas and advise volunteers how to work around them. 

With files from Krystalle Ramlakhan