Although the beaches in our region are undeniably beautiful, closer inspection reveals they are anything but pristine.
Discarded rubber gloves; traps, buoys and long lengths of rope sent shoreward by storms; thousands of lobster bands and bait bags, in addition to other flotsam and jetsam, greet beachcombers.
Not so many years ago, a survey conducted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Small Craft Harbours found that nearly 600,000 bait boxes, a common fisheries waste item, were discarded at sea annually by the industry.
The Clean Foundation – Clean Nova Scotia’s Ship-to-Shore program was created in 2008 to address concerns regarding improper disposal practices of marine waste at sea and on land, and to improve waste infrastructure needs at commercial fishing harbours.
To date, Ship-to-Shore has landed in over 160 fishing harbours.
Program co-ordinator Camilla Melrose says the key point of the program is that it’s about two-way education: educating people about the impact of marine waste and also trying to learn more about what the barriers are for them to adequately manage their waste disposal on the land and on the water.
“It’s very much about not blaming people and more about problem-solving together,” she said.
A critical piece of the program is observing what’s happening in the harbours.
“Sometimes there’s not an adequate number of dumpsters or maybe the community is using the dumpsters and they get filled and aren’t available for the fishers when they need them,” said Melrose.
Other times a big storm might come through and wash garbage from the land into the water.
While the program is about solving those problems, it’s about doing it in a way that’s within the financial means of the harbour and the fishers as well.
“We run a litter pickup program but that’s sort of the end-of-the-pipe solution whereas we want to focus on the start of the pipe and having less available going into the ocean in the first place,” said Melrose.
Last year, in addition to visiting Nova Scotia harbours, Ship to Shore waste educators expanded the program to Prince Edward Island. They visited harbours and met with fishermen and harbour masters. Four pilot harbours in that province were established.
In 2018, pending funding, the program will continue to advance on P.E.I.
Reps will also go to harbours in Nova Scotia that haven’t been visited in a while to get a sense of how many recommendations that were made have been adopted.