After more than a month of finding bits of plastic washing ashore on the beaches of Denman Island from the Baynes Sound Connector ferry cable, residents are taking the matter into their own hands.
For weeks, both large and small pieces of plastic from the cable of the ferry have been found by Island residents.
Earlier this month, ocean debris got caught up in one of the cables of the BSC, which caused delays. In a photo released by BC Ferries, yellow plastic from the cable could be seen entangled in the debris.
As a result, Island residents are organizing a clean-up Saturday along with a map of the Island to indicate where the plastic is found.
The clean-up is set for the Denman Island Famers Market where a bin for plastic drop off will be available.
Residents on social media have noted they have baskets full of cable plastic from Elkhaven to Denman Point. They have also noted the plastic has broken into small bits as well as long streamers.
“There is quite a bit – this has been going on for years,” said Denman resident Edi Johnston. “It’s never been in this volume, but lately there’s been a huge increase, which is raising red flags.”
Johnston explained she walks the beaches of the Island daily with her dog and noted the whole west side of the island is “getting spattered with the plastic.”
She said when the idea of a cable ferry was being pitched to residents years ago, one selling feature was that it was going to be more environmentally friendly running on the cable rather than diesel.
Now, she added, the cable coverings are routinely shaven off which adds to the contamination of the marine environment in Baynes Sound. The particles of plastic could end up being ingested by a variety of creatures in the water, which is particularly concerning she said, as Baynes Sound is home to a significant shellfish industry.
“Now the poor shellfish industry is trying to sell a green, sustainable product, and if word got out that they could be full of plastic, that is not good at all. It’s really not fair to think people could be ingesting these products.
“I’m not sure what the future of Baynes Sound is right now, but it doesn’t look good.”
BC Ferries is aware of the issue, confirmed Astrid Braunschmidt, manager of communications and media relations for the corporation.
“BC Ferries has experienced issues with select areas of the plastic coating on the cables of the cable ferry delaminating. This is a manufacturer’s defect and should not be occurring,” she noted in an email to The Record.
She added the situation was exacerbated recently when a free-floating prawn trap and net got caught up in one of the cables.
“BC Ferries is working with engineering experts to rectify the situation. We are looking at all options, including cables without coatings.”
Braunschmidt added the corporation is committed to the environment and will find a solution to the problem. She also noted in the meantime, BC Ferries is co-ordinating a beach cleanup and will have a date scheduled soon.
Comox Valley Regional District Electoral Area A director (Baynes Sounds-Denman/Hornby Islands) Daniel Arbour said the cable ferry plastic serves as a reminder to a larger addiction to plastic use.
“Between plastic from sewage, fisheries and aquaculture plastics and now BC Ferries plastic, we are not treating Baynes Sounds to the best of our aspirations. At some point, government needs to see what (should) be done, whether through better enforcement of existing regulations or introducing new ones. We need to do better.”
The $15-million, 78.5 metre cable ferry began service in late January 2016. It is capable of carrying 50 vehicles and 150 passengers, and with a crossing of about 1,900 metres, it is believed to be the longest cable ferry in the world.
The Baynes Sound Connector faced opposition from residents of Denman and Hornby islands, concerned about safety and reliability.
Within the last 35 days, the BSC has had to cancel sailings on two different occasions due to scheduled maintenance.