RDN efforts against ocean litter receives national support

By Spencer Sterritt
June 5, 2018 - 4:26pm

Debris and ocean waste gathered by residents concerned about what's floating in our water.File photo/NanaimoNewsNOW

A substantial amount of waste and trash was gathered from Pipers Lagoon in Nanaimo in 2017.submitted/Kristi Woodall

NANAIMO — A resolution from the Regional District of Nanaimo will hopefully soon end up on the Prime Minister's desk.

On June 2, an RDN resolution about creating a national strategy to combat ocean litter was strongly endorsed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The Federation is considered the national voice of local government and they directly forward ideas to federal ministers and the PM.

The push for a strategy to handle increasing ocean waste and litter was originally a Qualicum Beach idea which was then forwarded by the regional district.

RDN chair Bill Veenhof told NanaimoNewsNOW he's incredibly optimistic something concrete will come from their resolution. Roughly 2,100 delegates from the FCM voted in favour of it.

“That's a big deal,” he said. “There's so much out there, so much low-hanging fruit the federal government could do to regulate these problems. The spectrum is very large.”

The United Nations estimated eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into our oceans, food chains and ecosystems, creating a significant problem for Canada's expansive coastline.

Veenhof said with the number of shellfish farms off the coast of Vancouver Island, the issue has serious repercussions for the local economy and environment.

“We talk about agriculture and food production, one of our great food production areas is the ocean...We have huge fisheries which are all tied to this.”

It's not just a Pacific Ocean issue either.

Veenhof said he was thrilled to know this local effort would have major impacts for cities and towns across Canada. “A big issue they have on the East Coast is abandoned fishing lines,” he said. “We've seen that with whales getting tangled in them.”

Though an endorsement from the FCM doesn't include specific regulations or legislation, it now stands side-by-side with a motion in the House of Commons from Courtney-Alberni MP Gord Johns.

In late 2017 Johns put forward a motion to create funding for community-led cleanup projects, reduce the number of single use plastics and curb the effects of plastic pollution.

“Vancouver Island is Ground Zero for ocean plastics,” Johns said in a release. “From organizing beach cleanups to offering substitutions for plastic straws in cafes and restaurants, Canadians are calling on the federal government to act immediately.”

Veenhof said both the RDN and MP's efforts are “very complimentary” and he hoped the endorsed resolution would help Johns' motion in the House of Commons.

“I firmly believe that when we choose to work together, we do great things.”

Curbing marine litter was a major topic at the FCM conference this past weekend, referenced by federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and federal environment minister Catherine McKenna.

“It's not just cleaning up after the fact: it's actually being thoughtful about how we reduce, how we recycle, how we compost,” McKenna said at the conference.


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