Remote B.C. tourism lodge staffed for coastal clean up instead of wilderness tours

Crew photo with four mega bags and a necklace of abandoned buoys. (Jack Plant photo)Crew photo with four mega bags and a necklace of abandoned buoys. (Jack Plant photo)
Cutting into a fish farm net pen frame that washed up in Kitasoo territory. (Jack Plant photo)Cutting into a fish farm net pen frame that washed up in Kitasoo territory. (Jack Plant photo)
Cutting into a fish farm net pen frame that washed up in Kitasoo territory. (Jack Plant photo)Cutting into a fish farm net pen frame that washed up in Kitasoo territory. (Jack Plant photo)
Untangling rope has led to many a blunt knife. (Jack Plant photo)Untangling rope has led to many a blunt knife. (Jack Plant photo)
An example of the “beach” being cleaned. (Jack Plant photo)An example of the “beach” being cleaned. (Jack Plant photo)
Buoys, rope, foam, water jugs and more. (Jack Plant photo)Buoys, rope, foam, water jugs and more. (Jack Plant photo)
Dragging trash down the rocky beach. (Jack Plant photo)Dragging trash down the rocky beach. (Jack Plant photo)
Is it a kettle bell or a buoy? (Jack Plant photo)Is it a kettle bell or a buoy? (Jack Plant photo)
Bowling with buoys (Jack Plant photo)Bowling with buoys (Jack Plant photo)
Cleaning up a coast is tedious, never-ending work. (Jack Plant photo)Cleaning up a coast is tedious, never-ending work. (Jack Plant photo)

The Spirit Bear Lodge in B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest is an all-inclusive resort in the rugged Pacific northwest, meant as a wilderness retreat for tourists. But this year, they’ve taken on a new mission, and manager John Czornobaj is determined to make it a staple going forward.

The mission is coast cleaning.

In August, the provincial government contributed funding to tourism operators and coastal First Nations through its Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative Fund. The Small Ship Tourism Operators Association are hitting the outer coast, while the coastal First Nations are targeting places that are culturally important or used for food gathering and hunting.

The Kitasoo/Xai’xais Stewardship Authority asked the Spirit Bear Lodge to help tackle the job in their territory, and staff jumped at the chance. They employed about 12 young people from Klemtu as well, and have been sending out two boats a day for nearly a month.

The crew of 25 have collected 10,000 pounds of garbage so far.

That’s 10,000 pounds of fishing rope, 100-foot PVC pipes, Styrofoam blocks, buoys, a confusing amount of shoes and flip flops, thousands and thousands of single-use water bottles, full-sized fridges and freezers, barrels and large mort totes from fish farms.

Rolling up plastic netting to be hauled away to where it belongs: a recycling plant. (Jack Plant photo)

After seeing the sheer amount of work to be done, Czornobaj’s new goal is to make this an annual project.

“It’s lit a fire under all of us, recognizing how much more there is to do,” he said on a phone call after an eight-hour day of extricating trash.

Ocean trash on B.C.’s coast is a perpetual problem. Currents drag abandoned commercial fishing gear onto the rugged islands where it gets trapped by mounds of driftwood and lashed onto the rocks by ocean swells.

There, the man-made material becomes part of the landscape. Trees plant themselves in old broken oil barrels, and birds mistakenly feed on micro-plastics.

Even after a thorough cleaning from crews like this, the layers of driftwood trap and conceal some of the trash.

“We’re expecting with winter storms things will shuffle around and expose more that needs to be cleaned. And there’s still things being thrown in the ocean. It’s going to be a never-ending problem,” Czornobaj said.

He estimates they’ll clean a couple of hundred kilometres of coast this year — out of a few thousand kilometres just in the Kitasoo/Xai’xais territory.

The team is starting to wonder what can be done to stop new waste from being added daily. Could legislation aimed at commercial fishing be effective? Maybe put GPS trackers on gear — if you loseit, go find it. Or what about an audit system that checks boats when they leave and return, to make sure they have the same amount of gear, Czornobaj mused.

“These guys are out there making lots of money and they need to be accountable for letting thousands, literally thousands and thousands of pounds of fishing equipment out into the ocean.

“I don’t think the appliances we’re finding are coming from land. I think they come from boats. An attitude like, ‘This freezer is broken, toss it over. This barrel has a hole, toss it over.’ “

Out of sight out of mind for people who threw if overboard, but plastic doesn’t disappear, not really. (Jack Plant photo)

On one island, they found a nearly intact fish farm pen, a massive PVC pipe structure that stretches a net over the fish pen to prevent birds from getting in. It was at one of the most significant cultural places for the Kitasoo people. The crew used chainsaws to break it into manageable pieces.

It wasn’t from a local farm, either. These are global problems.

The crew hauls garbage into the mega bags, weigh it all, and record the types of waste and where they ended up.

To actually remove the trash, the Spirit Bear Lodge team is sharing the tugboat, barge and helicopter with the Small Ship Tourism Operators Association fleet, who drop the load off in Port Hardy to be processed by the Seven Mile Landfill and Recycling Centre. Well over 100,000 pounds of garbage will be offloaded by the end of September.

Making it an annual mission is not only a great employment opportunity for people in Klemtu, where the lodge is located, but it’s also a solid back-up plan for tourism jobs. They’re hoping for a good year of tours in 2021, but expect it to be shorter and limited to Canadian tourists.

“There’s been some depressing days out there. When you go out for eight hours and pick up garbage every day for a month, yeah, there are some sad days,” Czornobaj said.

A fish farm net pen frame that washed up in Kitasoo territory. (Jack Plant photo)

RELATED: Inside a mission to scrub our wild beaches

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


EnvironmentTourism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
Extinction Rebellion activists march from Vancouver to Victoria this weekend

The four-day trek ends at the B.C. legislature Monday, protest province’s environmental policy

A rider crosses a “skinny” on the newly opened trail known as 90s Jank, built within the Hartland system by volunteers with the South Island Mountain Bike Society. (Youtube/MTB Matt)
Mountain bikers celebrate first new trail in years on Saanich’s Mount Work

90s Jank trail a product of licence agreement between CRD and mountain bike society

The hiring of out-of-province workers by the Canadian Red Cross to staff the vaccination centre in Langford has raised eyebrows. (Black Press Media file photo)
Red Cross hires out-of-province workers to staff Langford vaccination centre

Staffer worries local jobs weren’t offered to local people

A weekend of sunny skies may have Victoria breaking temperature records, according to an Environment Canada meteorologist. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Temperature records eyed for Victoria with sunny weekend forcast

Victoria hit the highest April 14 temperature since 1926 on Wednesday

Fire crews respond to the 3500-block of Blanshard Street in Saanich on April 16. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
UPDATED: BC Hydro crews repairing failed electrical equipment in Saanich

Vernon Avenue reopen to traffic following closure

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Island woman on fence about vaccine prompted by brother’s death

Leela Harrop of Comox says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
New campgrounds coming to B.C. parks as part of $83M provincial boost

This season alone, 185 campsites are being added to provincial parks, says Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Most Read