Coast Clean Up Maple Leaf
(Maple Leaf Adventures / Small Ship Tour Operaters Association of BC (SSTOA))

The B.C. government is employing local small ship tour operators through a new fund aimed at cleaning up the coastline.

The $3.5 million Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative Fund (CCCW) will provide funding to operators, First Nations and local communities to help reduce plastic waste and other marine debris on the shores of the central coast.

The Small Ship Tour Operators Association (SSTOA) will be conducting two, 21-day marine debris removal expeditions, the first of which is already underway.

It was initially anticipated that the expeditions would collect around 35 to 40 tons of debris across 450 kilometres of beaches.

In a press briefing Monday morning, Sheila Malcolmson, Parliamentary Secretary for Environment, said the first expedition has nearly collected that amount already.

“They’ve already almost achieved that in 7 days,” said Malcolmson. “They’ve gotten almost 30 tonnes already.”

She added that the revised estimate for the expeditions is around 75 to 100 tonnes of debris collected.

Nine ships from the SSTOA are working with the government on the cleanup expeditions, including vessels from Vancouver Island tour operators.

“When it became clear that we all would have to cancel a sold-out season, we asked ourselves how we could use our skills to protect the environment that sustains us,” said Kevin Smith, president of the Victoria-based Maple Leaf Adventures.

“It’s really rewarding to work with our colleagues, First Nations communities, the Wilderness Tourism Association and the Province of B.C. on projects that help the ocean we love and support our industry during this unprecedented time.”

Materials collected by the expedition vessels will be recycled where possible.

The cleanup area covers a large section of Queen Charlotte Sound, including Calvert Island and Hunter Island.