While efforts are being made toward reducing ocean waste by eliminating disposable plastic items such as straws, food containers, and shopping bags, there’s another source of marine pollution that needs to be addressed along the British Columbian coastline.
The head of the nonprofit Dead Boats Disposal Society, John Roe, stated in a B.C. government news release issued on August 24 that over the last three years, his organization has removed more than 60 abandoned vessels out of the waters off the B.C. coast.
The public notifies the society, which is devoted to removing abandoned boats and debris from Port Renfrew to the Alaksa border, about these watercraft and another 35 boats are yet to be removed. Most of the boats were found in protected bays and inlets throughout Vancouver Island’s Capital Regional District, which runs from Sooke to the Gulf Islands.
What’s more, Roe said that the boats are always filled with garbage, and many have sunk or are polluting the marine environment after running aground upon the shore.
“There is nothing we haven’t pulled out of these boats and off the beaches over the years,” he stated. “They are full of everything you could possibly imagine.”
The process of removing the boats begins with determining how long the boat has been there and to confirm if it has been abandoned.
If an owner cannot be identified, the society has to issue a 30-day notice and apply to Transport Canada to remove it, which can take up to 100 days for approval. When the boat is removed with a barge and crane, it undergoes testing for contaminants, is dismantled, and sent to landfills.
While the Canadian government has identified approximately 1,400 abandoned boats along B.C.’s coast, Roe said there are 1,000 more boats he could add to the list. He said there are about 60 sunken boats in Ladysmith, with some at a depth of 180 feet underwater.
“I can find four or five boats a day for the rest of my life,” Roe said.
Transport Canada has a funding program to help remove these marine hazards and the federal Wreck, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, which is in effect, makes it illegal to abandon boats.
Nonetheless, Roe pointed out the problem not only persists but that it's difficult to keep up with the growing number of them, even as they continue to pollute the marine environment.
“When you look at a single 25-foot fibreglass boat, the waste from that is equivalent to 480,000 straws being dumped into the ocean,” Roe explained.” We are making progress, but at the current rate it’s going to be 35 years before I get those 1,400 boats, and we’re seeing more showing up.”
The B.C. government is examining how to prevent boats from being left abandoned as well as finding ways to recycle marine debris so that they don’t end up in landfills.
Nanaimo MLA and environment parliamentary secretary Sheila Malcolmson has been visiting B.C. coastal communities over the summer months to learn about solutions for these issues.
Malcolmson will make recommendations for a provincial action plan, to work with the federal government, to address these environmental threats. Suggestions and feedback, including success stories, can be sent by email.
More information about abandoned vessels, marine debris, and marine-sourced plastics can be found at the B.C. government website.