Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Malcolm Island's TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup!

Saturday, September 26th dawned clear, sunny and warm - perfect weather to get the 37 participants of our "trash teams" out onto our shoreline here in Sointula and Mitchell Bay to try and make a dent in the ever growing piles of flotsam and jetsam that seems to crowd the shores of Malcolm Island.

This was all part of the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, sponsored by the Vancouver Aquarium and, under the auspices of The Ocean Conservancy, part of an international effort to clear debris from shorelines around the world.

For the Malcolm Island event we had help and sponsorship from Living Oceans Society, The Malcolm Island Lions Club, Sointula Recreation Association and the Regional District of Mount Waddington.

Our hard working volunteers (and their pickup trucks) managed to get an estimated 1875 kilograms of junk off the beaches. Over 80 % went to the 7 Mile Recycling depot/landfill while the rest was directed to the Malcolm Island landfill. Any scrap metal, tires, batteries, recyclable plastics and returnables were sorted from the general trash and destined to be recycled.

In Mitchell Bay/Donegal Head area at the south end of Malcolm Island, 12 volunteers collected a huge pickup truck of trash.
This was the first time that Mitchell Bay had been cleaned up during a TDGCSC event although there is a lot of people all over the island who take it upon themselves to clean up the beaches throughout the year.

A huge thanks to everybody who participated this year.
When the final all Canadian cleanup statiistics come in sometime in October I will post the data on Coastal Voices.

Here are a few photos taken on Saturday.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Part 4: Interviews from Sointula - LEK from BC's Central Coast

Part 4 of a 6 Part Series - by Kirie McMurchy

During my interview project with Living Oceans Society, every single person I interviewed mentioned the Mifflin Plan. The Mifflin Plan is the colloquial name for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Pacific Salmon Revitalization Strategy that came into effect under then-minister, Fred Mifflin. The Mifflin Plan was a reaction to a decrease in fish stocks in the 1980’s and it attempted to conserve the stocks by reducing the size of the fishing fleet. The plan went about this in two ways: buying back fishing licenses to reduce the number of boats able to fish and sectioning up the coast into zones so one fishing license no longer allowed one to fish the whole coast. It has been said that in one year alone, the west coast lost more than 8,000 jobs from the salmon industry. In a community whose lifeblood was the salmon fishing industry, it is understandable why this was such a huge blow.
The following is an excerpt from an interview I conducted with Living Oceans own, Will Soltau about his recollections of the Sointula-hatched action against the Mifflin Plan in the mid ‘90’s.

Excerpt of Interview with Will Slotau (contributed with permission)

"It was April of ’96 [that] we decided that we had to do something. There was a bunch of us from [Sointula] that went up to [the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) office in] Port Hardy. The secretary came up, these two guys just jumped up on the counter, went inside, one of them opened the door and we all rushed into the main office and we said “We’re not leaving until we hear from the minister that he’s not going to implement the Mifflin Plan!” and they said “Okay, good luck.” DFO got on the phone to find out what they should do." "So we made promises [that we would not be violent or destructive] and DFO left that night from work and they brought in a couple of commissionaires to sort of babysit us all night. The rotation of our people that were in the office changed on a daily basis. After about a week DFO didn’t like this free flow of people in and out of the office, and they didn’t want to drag us out and create a scene like that so what they decided they’d do was they would lock the doors and the people that were in there that day could leave at any time but they would not be allowed back in. There were eight of us, I believe, and we spent another eighteen days in there. It got pretty tense after a while. We were sleeping on the floor people would bring us food and they were still marching outside, they had placards by that time. " "Because of us, the DFO office in Tofino, Nanaimo, and finally in Vancouver got occupied but we were the first ones that actually took action like that. They might have even occupied the Prince Rupert office, I can’t remember. There were people that came from Port Hardy and Port McNeil once we occupied the office but the plan was hatched by a bunch of Sointulians." "Glen Clark was premier of BC at the time and he was all for supporting the fishermen, he had gotten the union behind him and there was a big press conference down in Vancouver one day and there was a bunch of people that had come to the office to protest. It was getting pretty noisy outside and I kind of felt like things were coming to a head with this whole press conference and the way people were feeling. Those of us that had been inside had had enough after eighteen days. So I let a bunch of people that were outside in and some of the people that were inside went out and from there it just kind of dissolved. Everybody was cleared out that evening, the cops showed up but they just kind of escorted people outside and then DFO locked the doors and that was the end of that. Nothing really came of it, DFO didn’t change one bit. "

Kirie McMurchy is a Guest contributor to coastal voices blog. If you have Local Knowledge about the ocean or about living on the Central Coast of British Columbia - we want to hear from you! Contact us at

Monday, September 14, 2009

The TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup!

I hate to break this to you, folks but recent studies have shown that our oceans have become incredibly huge repositories of garbage for both the developed and developing worlds.

Most of the marine debris in the world is comprised of plastic materials. The average proportion varies between 60 to 80% of total marine debris and nearly 80% of this debris comes from land-based sources.

Several earlier postings on Coastal Voices have touched on the "garbage patch" out in the North Pacific Gyre which is actually more of a thin soup of plastic fragments as well as larger pieces of flotsam and jetsam.
It is, as one journalist described it, humanity's own Giant Gyre of Junk!

While it is probably logistically too difficult to go out 1000 miles into the Pacific to attempt to clean up this mess we can all help out here closer to home to try and stem the flow of man made junk getting onto our beaches and further out to sea.

To that end one thing we can all do is to get involved with the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, one of the largest conservation initiatives of the Vancouver Aquarium. What started out as a small beach cleanup conducted by a handful of Vancouver Aquarium employees has now grown into the second largest cleanup in the world. ( The U.S. is in first place - for now!)

So, here in Sointula, Living Oceans Society will be coordinating our community's participation in one of the largest contributors to the International Coastal Cleanup in the world.

What we have done in recent years and are planning for this year is to have volunteers come out on Saturday, September 26, get into small informal groups and hit the beaches, locating and picking up debris.
Your humble scribe for this blog posting, Vern Sampson, will be the coordinator for the Malcolm Island/Sointula beach cleanup. We already have some teams who have come forward with crew and pickup trucks. The Rough Bay Bunch have already staked out their coastal cleanup turf!
What we will be looking for are some Downtown Debris Dynamos and the Kaleva Kleanup Krowd! (Who came up with these names, anyway?)
Look for posters around town with more details or contact me at 250 973-6580, 250 973-2078 or:

If there are folks from other communities who wish to get into some friendly competition or wish to know more about what you or your group can do in your community in the cleanup campaign, by all means contact me or check out the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup link above.

I'll post more details on Sointula's efforts in the next few days.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Part 3: Interviews from Sointula - LEK from BC's Central Coast

Part 3 of a 6 Part Series - by Kirie McMurchy

I learned so much during my interview project with Living Oceans Society, and I wish I could share every ounce of knowledge with all of you. However, I’ve been given a limited word count for these blog postings. One thing I think is essential to share is how hard but rewarding most people seem to find the fishing lifestyle. The following excerpt from my interview with Rebekah Pesika, an artist and prawn fisherman living in Sointula conveys that sentiment quite well. She’s been running her own boats for many years and just this past season, she took her six month old daughter out for the season prawn fishing with her.

Excerpt of interview with Rebekah Pasika (contributed with permission)

"[The fishing lifestyle] is very free, it’s more organic. I think that a lot of people don’t really realize how hard it is when the fishing is actually happening, how hard the job is, to function with a total lack to sleep, to be in a dangerous environment, to have to keep quality control for your product, to have to push yourself physically to work as fast as you can in order to catch as much as you can in a short amount of time. That’s how fishing works. It teaches people willpower [and] patience. The other thing you learn is how to deal with people in close quarters for long periods of time. So there’s this whole real good understanding of how people work, and how to function, almost like a family, you become like a family out there. You can’t be a prude or you can’t be really self-conscious because when you’re going to the toilet and let out a big fart you know there’s someone sitting two inches from your ass on the other side of the wall."

"One of the reasons I stayed in fishing too, I like fishing, but sometimes I think it would be great to do other things but I just don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I don’t care. Work is work. Whether you’re working at whatever, it’s never fun all the time. Fishing sucks lots, it’s hard. But it’s good enough for me. Something about contentment or even happiness has a lot to do with not necessarily being satisfied all the time, it’s more that it speaks to your heart. Fishing speaks to my heart, I feel like it’s an appropriate thing for me to spend my life doing as a career. That’s what you’ve got to do. I think a job is like a relationship you’ve got to pick something that suits you but it doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect all the time. The ocean and the wind and basically the earth dictate your decisions and you totally live around it. It’s really, primitive. Humans are primitive, we try [not] to be but we’re still primitive."

"The way [Sointula] used to be would’ve probably, from my understanding, been one of the most lively cultural examples of the fishing industry because everybody was fishing and the whole town revolved around it. That would’ve been really cool. It feels really good to be working at something that’s so tangible. With fishing, it’s not like you’re marketing some plastic thing that’s made in another country or pushing papers. There’s just a lot of emotional reward in something like fishing and to have the industry and a culture and a town just totally wrapped around that whole way of life would be pretty neat.

Kirie McMurchy is a Guest contributor to coastal voices blog. If you have Local Knowledge about the ocean or about living on the Central Coast of British Columbia - we want to hear from you! Contact us at

Friday, September 4, 2009

Part 2: Interviews from Sointula - Local Knowledge from BC's Central Coast

Part 2 of a 6 part series - by Kirie McMurchy

Working for the summer for Living Oceans Society, interviewing people involved in the fishing industry, the one thing every single person implied was that fishing was not just a job, it was a lifestyle. This excerpt is taken from my interview with Crystal Siider whose family has a long history of living in Sointula. Sitting on the deck of her boat, the Mailee III, she had a huge smile when she’d talk about the sense of community and bringing her children up as part of that unique community. She helped out on her father’s boat as a child and now fishes with her husband. They have two daughters, now nineteen and fourteen.

Excerpt of interview with Cryslal Siider (contributed with permission)

"You meet so many wonderful people and hit so many different towns along the coast [when you’re fishing]. After gillnet openings, we would all meet, a big group of us. We called it Sea Float up in Rush Brook in Prince Rupert and we’d always have big potlucks. Everybody would make a dish and we’d set up our chairs on the docks. [People] would have their guitars out, and this fellow from the lower mainland named Beanie – he’s David Suzuki’s cousin, he was a gillnetter and he had a boat called the Easy Come – he would bring out his guitar and we’d all put our ear plugs in. Very social, it was a really social atmosphere on the weekends. Everybody was very competitive out on the grounds but you’d leave that there. You’d come into the dock and you always secretly hoped everybody did just as well, maybe that you caught two more fish than them, but that everybody did well. You never wanted to hear the stories of somebody blowing up an engine or losing their gear."

"[Sointula] definitely was and still is one of the most respected fishing communities on the coast. It’s always had very honest, and hard working good fishermen. [My nephew], he’s gone fishing with his mum and dad and his grandpa and his uncles. He and his girlfriend at the time, they weren’t married yet, had gone to Cancun, they’d rented a jeep and they were traveling around the Yucatan Peninsula. They drove into a small community called Punta Allan, and it’s a small fishing community, and they walked into this little hole in the wall pub and they were going to have a beer and a bite to eat. A fellow came up to them and asked "where are you from?' and he said 'Oh I’m from British Columbia, Canada' 'Oh, where abouts in BC?' 'Oh we’re off the north end of Vancouver Island.' 'Oh, where abouts?' 'Oh a little community called Sointula, I’m sure you’ve never…' 'Sointula?! Do you know Dave Siider?! I met him out fishing.' 'That’s my grandpa!' You meet people that know fishermen here. It’s a small world."

"We’re not kids anymore, we’re participating as adults now and bringing up our kids on the boat. Both of them had a chance to spend summers with us and they took turns, and made a little bit of money, and got to meet a lot of people. [My eldest daughter] Cailyn is out fishing now and I think she’s really enjoying it. It’s hard work, it’s different working for somebody other than your parents. You have a different perspective of it. [My younger daughter,] Scotia, has always been a little deckhand. She never got sea sick or anything and she was always so fascinated with whatever was coming up in the shrimp trawl. She used to sit up in the sorter, where we would dump the shrimp and sort through it all, and we’d have her sitting on a little basket with her gumboots, and her dress, and her little dolly and she’d sit there for hours and hours. It was great having them out on the boat."

Kirie McMurchy is a Guest contributor to coastal voices blog. If you have Local Knowledge about the ocean or about living on the Central Coast of British Columbia - we want to hear from you! Contact us at

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Whale of a Time - Finding the Right Action

This cartoon, by Adrian Raeside, showed up in the local North Vancouver newspaper last week. It's message touches many of the issues that we have covered in this blog's pages over recent months: Seismic testing, net entanglement, and shipping accidents in protected whale reserves. We asked Adrian for his permission to share the comic strip here.

Iconic species such as whales are often used to deliver messages on ocean health, because we have a soft spot in our heart for these mammalian cousins in the sea. But how do we get folks to rally around the squid that will die off due to seismic testing, or the sea birds that drown, tangled in nets, or even the ratfish that get slaughtered by the thousands as bycatch, only to get thrown back to the sea? It is harder to drive legislative reform for the sake of these more ordinary species. I think that if we start by remembering that everything in the ocean is connected - even more than on land due to the water that flows in between, we will remember that the changes we make at the lowest levels in the food web, starting with clean water, will have impacts all the way to the top.

Don't get me wrong - I will fight for the whales side by side with the rest of them - but I find, increasingly, that the actions needed to address all sorts of environmental woes begin with the basics, and they impact the bottom of the food web. Don't put stuff in the water that you wouldn't put in your mouth. Don't shout, out of respect for others using this shared space. Share, and leave enough for all. Put things back where you found them, and leave everywhere clean and tidy.

Do you think, if we stuck to such kindergarten basics, that our oceans would thrive again, saving all manner of marine life, including whales and ourselves at the same time?

Kim Wright is the Marine Planning and Protected Areas Program Manager for the Living Oceans Society.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Young Humpback Whale Rescued in Australia

A RESCUE mission to free a young humpback from shark nets off Coolangatta was almost ruined by an over-protective adult whale.

The trapped 8m mammal, believed to be about two years old, was first spotted about 800m from shore by Trevor Arbon, from Big Trev's Watersports, about 11am.

Mr Arbon said the whale was obviously tangled in shark nets and was thrashing around.

"It's been trying to get out," he said. "I saw it get about a third of its body out of the water."

Queensland Boating and Fisheries received a call about the whale shortly after 11am and sent an animal release team to the scene.

Shark Control Program manager Tony Ham, from the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, said the whale had netting tangled around its head and tail.

"It became wrapped up lengthways," he said.

"It had laid against the net and rolled over itself."

He said the rescue crew had almost finished cutting the whale free from the net when a bigger, adult humpback charged the boat.

"They'd cut most of the entangle-ment away when the adult came in," said Mr Ham.

"Then the juvenile panicked and became re-entangled."

He said the crew were not harmed but it was frustrating having to start again.

"Whales are very close pod animals," he said.

"They display aggression when they see something as a threat.

"The juvenile would have been calling to the pod in distress."

The whale was eventually cut free about 3.25pm and swam off with the adult.

"It had some chafe marks from the nets, as would be expected, but there was no bleeding and no injuries," said Mr Ham.

It is nice to see a happy ending for this young whale's adventure.

You can see the original news posting here complete with more photos.