Community members check out a touch tank display at World Oceans Day at Maffeo Sutton Park this past Saturday (KELSEY McLEAN/Black Press)

OPINION: We stand with those who are protecting our oceans

Nanaimo MLA offered guest comment related to World Oceans Day this past weekend

BY SHEILA MALCOLMSON

Oceans are vital to the health of the world. For British Columbia, coastal waters are also vital to our culture and our economy. On World Oceans Day, we celebrate those working to protect the waters that are so important to us all.

Clean coastal waters keep us healthy and generate tens of thousands of B.C. jobs, as well as billions in economic activity from tourism to film to fisheries. However, the waters that give us so much also suffer a lot. Thousands of abandoned vessels are deteriorating in B.C.’s marine waters, dangerously close to sinking, along with all the pollutants they carry. Our ocean floor is littered with marine-sourced debris and plastics. So much of the pollution we create sits just beyond our view, beneath the surface.

That’s why I’m determined to find solutions for the problems of derelict vessels, marine debris and marine-sourced plastics. I have long advocated to include recycling solutions in federal legislation for derelict and abandoned vessels, and thousands of businesses support this idea. This commitment continues in my new role as special advisor on marine debris.

This summer, I’ll travel the coast to find solutions. Conversations are already underway and, despite my 11 years of work in this area, I’m still learning about new, emerging ideas. We need to figure out how to prevent derelict vessels in the first place and how to salvage existing ones before they sink. We need to clean up marine debris and marine-sourced plastics already on the ocean floor. And we must ensure any new solutions do not put additional pressure on landfills.

RELATED: World Oceans Day in Nanaimo includes cleanup and celebration

While these conversations take place, countless British Columbians are already taking action to clean our coast and protect the ocean. For example, the Coastal Restoration Society and Clayoquot CleanUp removed over 1.5 million pounds of marine debris from the ocean last year. Veins of Life and the Dead Boat Disposal Society have pulled hundreds of abandoned vessels out onto dry land, and the Ocean Legacy Foundation is turning marine plastics into fuel. These groups rely on volunteers. Today, I applaud every British Columbian who has given their time to this great cause.

Our West Coast economy depends on healthy and thriving ocean environments. We are all in this together. On World Oceans Day, Minister Heyman, myself and many others were making an effort and there are shoreline cleanups happening along the coast, not just on that day, but throughout the year. Together, we can achieve our common goal of protecting our oceans and protecting our coastal environment.

Sheila Malcolmson is MLA for Nanaimo and special advisor on marine debris protection. She can be reached at sheila.malcolmson.mla@leg.bc.ca.

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