Throwing one piece of plastic on the ground or into the lake may seem unimportant, but the effect on wildlife can be deadly.
On a calm, serene afternoon on Shuswap Lake, talented wildlife photographer Clive Bryson was at Peter Janninck Park in his quest to photograph members of the local grebe population.
Using a high-powered lens, Bryson was able to zoom in on a mother grebe paddling toward one of her babies.
He was shocked and horrified to see that the mother was not carrying a fish in her mouth, but rather a piece of rigid plastic.
“I’ve never seen that before, it’s disturbing,” he says, pointing out the parents sometimes catch huge fish and the babies swallow them. “Subsequent photos do not make clear that the baby took it; sometimes they dip their heads under the water so you can’t see anything, but if it did, it would be dead.”
Peter Janninck Park near Churches Thrift Store is Bryson’s second favourite spot in which to photograph, with the wharf being his preferred location.
Visiting either location three or four times a week to capture images of osprey, grebes and any other wildlife that come into view, Bryson says plastic pollution has been increasing since he moved to Salmon Arm 25 years ago.
“I’ve noticed from the wharf that when the water is low, you can see a lot of plastic in the mud – all types of plastic pollution, and at Peter Janninck, tires, tarps, pop bottles and beer cans are all in the water.”
Bryson suspects much of the plastic pollution is thrown from some boaters who party on the lake and throw their trash into the water.
“We should somehow educate the public about plastic pollution on our lands and waters,” he says.
Kelowna Conservation Officer Ed Seitz agrees with Bryson about the need to educate. He says while most people respect the environment, there are those who treat it like their personal garbage dump.
“We all have to live in the same environment, so let’s keep it clean and tidy,” he says.
For those who don’t get the message, there are consequences under the BC Environmental Act.
Conservation officers and police are able to hand out tickets in the amount of $115 when they see someone throwing something on the ground. That’s the minimum cost, Seitz says, noting tickets for larger offences could be as high as $575.
He recommends that anyone who witnesses littering or dumping report a violation to the Conservation Officer Service online or contact the conservation officer 24-hour hotline to report a violation at 1-877-952-7277 or #7277 on the Telus Mobility Network.