At BC Parks, we are committed to serving British Columbians by protecting natural features and providing diverse opportunities for outdoor recreation for current and future generations. BC Parks benefits tremendously from the contributions made by volunteers and in collaboration with other fantastic organizations. This July, I was able to join Surfrider Foundation, a renowned international organization which works to preserve the world’s oceans and beaches for the enjoyment of all, as well as Ahousaht First Nation, to collect marine debris from the shores of Vargas and Flores Islands. This cleanup was funded by Clean Coast Clean Waters Initiative Fund.
I’m Mackenzie, a BC Parks Youth Employment Program Community Engagement Intern. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend this year’s cleanup event with Surfrider.
Vargas and Flores Islands are remote provincial parks located in the Clayoquot Sound, which can only be accessed by helicopter or boat. Both islands provide spectacular opportunities for outdoor recreation such as camping, boating, wildlife viewing, and more. Throughout my two-day visit I saw the foggy silhouettes of sea otters, the carefree performances of grey whales, a garter snake wriggling beneath beach litter, four energetic orcas, and the tiniest of wild mice inhabiting a Styrofoam block home.
Along the perimeter of these islands, the beaches appear to be pristine, with clear wolf tracks marking the sand. Though amongst the shoreline salal, plastic and fishery pollution, such as rope, Styrofoam, and buoys, remain plentiful in nooks hidden out of sight. This debris is what BC Parks, Surfrider volunteers, and the Indigenous communities have been working to clear for years. Although a significant impact has been made in this area by past beach cleanups, it is essential that this effort is continued, as waste accumulates ashore each year.
This cleanup was supported not only by the efforts of this year’s coordinators and volunteers, but also that of all participants past. As explained by repeat participants, each year the quantity of waste found along these shorelines decreases. I am incredibly grateful to all of those who have volunteered, to the Ahousaht First Nation who allowed me to work and visit their lands, and to the Surfrider Foundation which organized this cleanup event. Of all the incredible things I have experienced throughout my internship term, this trip has been one of the most memorable.
During my time on these islands, I was reminded of the resilience of nature, the power of people, and of my wonder of the ocean. Engulfed in morning mist or wrapped up in evening sunset, these islands are truly magical and will only remain so if they continue to be cared for by visitors, inhabitants, and volunteers. Everyone can help keep our oceans clean by avoiding unnecessary single-use plastics, for example, plastic water bottles can be easily replaced with reusable bottles. If you are fortunate enough to visit these islands, or any other natural area, remember to always pack out what you pack in, and to follow no trace principles.
If you would like to learn more about the Surfrider Foundation, or get involved, visit: https://www.surfrider.org/
To read more about how to recreate responsibly, visit: https://bcparks.ca/visiting/responsible-recreation/