Volunteers tackle underwater litter in the Campbell River estuary – Campbell River Mirror

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday morning, there were about 70 tires in a dumpster near the Perkins Road marina in Campbell River, and Phil Griffith was bringing yet another load onto his boat.

“We have 70 in the bin right now, which would bring our total to about 760 or 770 over the last eight years,” Griffith said. “We remove trash from the bottom, mostly tires that have been used over the years as boat bumpers on the docks. The fall, and people replace them, but they’re just out of sight, out of mind.

Griffith is part of the Campbell River Salmon Foundation, which is one of the partners in the annual Campbell River Estuary Cleanup Project. After taking two years off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things got back into gear this year – this time on the marina side of the estuary.

“We basically did kiddie playground until the end of the spit on that side,” Griffith said, pointing to the Tyee Spit across the estuary. “As of today, we’ve put out 700 tires and kind of done it, and then we’ve come to this side for this year.”

“It’s off site, out of mind, but being a heritage river and a great salmon river, the litter below has an effect. Recently, they discovered that there is a chemical wash from the tires which is dangerous for the salmon. It prevents them from reproducing,” Griffith said. “It’s been like that for 50 or 60 years. One tire falls off, so you put on another one. That’s how things were done.

“The whole coast is like that and I hope to change things province-wide. There are tens of thousands of tires out there,” he said. “Every place where there has been a lumber camp or an anchorage or every estuary that has been treated like the Campbell is like that. No finger pointing, we’re just cleaning up the mess.

Around 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning, the first volunteers began to descend towards the estuary. Divers have been out in the water to pull up tires, boat parts, discarded fishing gear and anything that has fallen off docks or boats in the past 50 years. The material was collected, watered down and transported to a dumpster for transport to the landfill. Volunteers from the Tyee Club of Campbell River, the Campbell River Salmon Foundation, the Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Carihi Fly Fishing Group all came out to help.

Between trips to the dive boats, volunteers had hot chocolate, coffee and snacks which were provided by the River Spirit Dragon Boat Auxiliary. The kids were especially in love with the hot chocolate, but even they helped bring some of the goop-covered trash to the dumpster.

“I think it’s important because they are the future of conservation and stewardship of our waters,” said Carihi High fly fishing instructor Nick Pisterzi. “Having them here, especially during Spring Break, is a testament to their commitment to a healthier world and environment.”

The students themselves agreed. Kaydence Harris said she learned in the conservation fly fishing course:

“Throughout my time in the Carihi High Fly Fishing program, I was taught about conservation and the importance of saving our rivers and protecting fish,” she said. “It’s great that we’ve all come out with our free time to help out. It’s a great cause and next year more people should come out.

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