British Columbia’s central coast is the focus of a unique partnership to rid the shoreline of marine debris.

The Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative Fund (CCCW) helps small ship tour operators, Indigenous Nations, local communities, and others participate in a $3.5-million cleanup of the shores of the central coast. The cleanup also creates jobs and supports coastal communities as they recover from the COVID-19 economic downturn.

“The ocean environment sustains all life and needs our attention and action,” said Sheila Malcolmson, parliamentary secretary for environment. “This funding will create jobs for local communities. It strengthens our partnerships with Indigenous Nations, tourism operators, and local communities as we work together to clean up our shorelines, protect marine life, and support our world-class coastal tourism economy.”

The program responds to the strong public call to action on marine debris that Malcolmson heard when she toured coastal communities in 2019.

“This is the first time a cleanup of this scale has been launched on the Central Coast of British Columbia,” said George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy. “It is a great example of how our future, both environmentally and economically, must be built on partnership and reconciliation.”

This is the first in a series of CCCW initiatives that are creating jobs for tour operators, clean-up crews, community educators, and specialized positions in areas such as oceanographic data collection.

“B.C.’s coastal environment is one of our greatest assets, attracting visitors from all over the world and supporting tourism in British Columbia,” said Lisa Beare, minister of tourism, arts, and culture. “Funding for these projects not only protects the marine environment, but provides jobs for people affected by the significant decrease in tourism as a result of the pandemic.”

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The Small Ship Tour Operators Association (SSTOA) will conduct two marine debris removal expeditions, each up to 21 days, including nine vessels and more than 100 crew who will inspect and clean-up to 1,000-kilometres, weather permitting, of remote shoreline around 100 small islands. The clean-up operations will be performed by various marine-based tourism operators, which may include but is not limited to member companies of the SSTOA.

“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 Maple Leaf Adventures and member of SSTOA. “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.”

The SSTOA will lead projects to remove marine debris from B.C.’s central coast. It will recycle the collected debris where possible and reduce the amount of material ending up in landfills.

The funding is part of the B.C. government’s far-ranging Pandemic Response and Economic Recovery initiative supporting all sectors that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.

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