Friday, July 23, 2010

Splash for Trash at Whiskey Dock

Anyone missing their bike? It may be at the bottom of the harbour!

As part of the Ucluelet Harbour Appreciation Day on July 15, volunteers from the Ucluelet Aquarium and Ocean Planet Adventures dove for trash under the Whiskey Dock. From bottles to bicycles, there was more then enough trash to keep eight divers busy for nearly four hours. While our aquarists Jaylene, Laura and Nate dove for trash with the Ocean Planet staff, aquarists Dave, Spencer, Larissa, and Kane, along with Mark (Sport) from Barkley Sound Black Seals manned the dock pulling up trash lines and returning animals that had made a temporary home in the garbage. By the end of the day we had collected a gigantic pile of trash which was hauled off for recycling and disposal by the volunteers from the Ucluelet Rent-it Centre.

The Whiskey Dock definitely lived up to its name with enough bottles residing under the dock to rival the depot after Ukee days. There were so many bottles littering the harbour floor that our dive team had to stop collecting them in order to focus our efforts on the more nasty stuff such as boat batteries that corrode and leach toxic compounds into its surroundings (we were able to retrieve three large marine batteries in the time available to us).

We also pulled up ghost fishers. Of course I'm referring to old traps and nets that become lost or dumped but continue to capture marine life. The days of fishing are over for an old Black Cod trap and the remains of fishing nets that we collected. Among the many critters that took up housing in bottles, we collected a tiny new Giant Pacific Octopus from an empty Gin bottle. He now calls our nudibranch tank home, but will be released in a couple months.

As well, I'm not sure if the CO-OP was aware that they were missing some of their shopping carts. By the end of the day we had retrieved three of them. CO-OP representatives are welcome to claim them, although its unlikely they'll ever push groceries again. Encrusted in barnacles and rust, most people probably wouldn't want to put their food inside. And if the wheels were present, they were so seized that you would be forced to drag the cart across the store as you shopped. The six bikes we pulled up weren't in any better shape. With so much corrosion and marine life growing on them, its doubtful even Ukee Bikes could make them operable again.

Other things collected include:
countless bottles
a car exhaust
stereo system
rusty cable wire
old fishing nets and rope
dinner plates and mugs
and a variety of car parts
unknown/unidentifyable scrap metal and plastics

The Ucluelet Aquarium Society strives to promote healthy oceans, and a large barrier to ocean health is pollution. This includes all the trash that gets thrown into the ocean both intentionally and accidentally. Much of our garbage is non-decomposable and may take thousands of years to break down, if it breaks down at all (think plastics). Although much of this trash is out of sight and out of the minds of most, it accumulates to wreak havoc on our oceans. With the success of this year’s splash for trash, the Ucluelet Aquarium hopes to make this an annual event to continue to promote a healthy harbour.

The aquarium staff would like to give a special thanks to: Katie Beach (Nuu-Chah-Nulth biologist), who organized the Ucluelet Harbour Appreciation Day; Mark Porteous (Barkley Sound Black Seals Diving) who organized and brought everyone together for the dive; Steve Bird (Ucluelet Harbour Authority) for giving us dive access; Tony Konefall (Ucluelet Rent-it Centre) and Chris Bird (Sonbird Refuse and Recycling) for hauling, recycling and disposal of the garbage; West Coast Aquatic for the beach cleanup; and of course Andy and all the fantastic guys at Ocean Planet Adventures who dove for trash and loaned equipment to the Ucluelet Aquarium staff.