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What lies beneath: SeaChange dredges up trash from Vancouver Island waters

Radiator, toilet and rope removed from beneath the waves of resilient Oak Bay

Under the waters of Oak Bay off Beach Drive thrives a hotbed of sea life and trash.

People work, live and play both on and in the ocean there. That leaves an impact.

The resiliency of the ecosystem beneath these particular waves amazes and surprises Susan Anthony.

Through her work with SeaChange Marine Conservation Society, the field biologist has seen some pretty sights, and some hearty systems challenged by the impacts of humans – even if unintentional.

“We can’t help that we’re impacting everything,” Anthony said.

READ ALSO: No ‘doom and gloom’ for Oak Bay’s eelgrass

Most recently, that work included underwater scans of Oak Bay – the body of water between Cattle Point and the marina – followed by a marine debris cleanup.

“I was in awe of the life I saw in videos in Oak Bay,” Anthony said, praising the resiliency of nature there. “But the prognosis? I’m hopeful, but we really need to make a few changes.”

The scans found more trash than anticipated, so they focused on a portion of the waterway for the cleanup. SeaChange collaborated with divers to pulled trash from the bottom for a few days this week, expecting to wrap Wednesday (Feb. 7).

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Jamie Smith of Coastal Photography Studios hands a diver the hi-tech laundry basket and rope used to haul up smaller items. (Susan Anthony/SeaChance Marina Conservation Society)

Much of the detritus was as expected for an area frequently filled with parked boats.

“There’s a lot of leftover mooring blocks and ropes,” Anthony said. Not all the rope is attached to a standard mooring block, there was at least one radiator.

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And a toilet. That one’s more unusual, she said, but might not have been used to anchor a boat.

Boat motors and clothing are common, with towels and T-shirts highlighting the accidental items that become marine debris.

“But it is still damaging no matter the intentions,” she said. “What we find is most people want to act in the best way, it’s just knowing what that is.”

With a project that could likely continue endlessly – and other projects to get to – the team felt it could make an impact pulling a full dumpster of debris.

“Let’s just remove the trash. Take a step. We’re not going to save all our problems from one boat but we can take a step in the right direction,” she said.

It also afforded an opportunity to talk to local boaters about best practices and connect with other Oak Bay organizations working on watershed issues which all funnel to the Salish Sea at some point.

Estuaries and bays face assaults from all over based on the nature of where they are, whether it’s crab traps or watershed issues. “So what’s happening in Oak Bay can be sourced sometimes not in the debris… but way further inland,” Anthony said.

The SeaChange team also connected with local groups already tackling those subjects, such as the Friends of Bowker Creek. “Through them one piece of the puzzle will be helped and we’ve all got to pitch in and help.”

There is keen interest in the general population in the ocean in general as a food source, a return to traditional harvesting practices and natural recreation.

“It’s more than just wanting a pretty place that looks nice.”

Anyone looking to support the work can find the society online at seachangesociety.com, connect on social media @seachangemarine or email connect@seachangesociety.com.

READ ALSO: Greater Victoria water stewards tackle tire toxins in Bowker Creek

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Viki Kolatkova wait for the next bundle of debris – note the crab traps, tires, and lots of rope – to be loaded into the dumpster. (Susan Anthony/SeaChance Marina Conservation Society)


Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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