Minister’s Island beach cleanup marks World Ocean Day

(Robert Fisher photo) Huntsman Marine Science Centre summer student Naysa Francis deposits some washed up debris into a bucket at the beach cleanup on Minister’s Island on Saturday.

MINISTER’S ISLAND – The Huntsman Marine Science Centre marked World Ocean Day with a beach cleanup on Minister’s Island.

The cleanup was part of the centre’s Debris Free Fundy initiative.

Roughly a dozen vehicles snaked across the gravel bar, which allows access to the island at low tide, to participate in the beach cleanup. A 20-minute walk through open grasslands and mixed forest led down to a gravel beach, lined on the shore side with sandstone conglomerate cliffs where tidal erosion has cut out small caverns.

Nicole Waaler, outreach co-ordinator at the Huntsman, said the Debris Free Fundy initiative began in 2018 and is a waste reduction strategy for southwest New Brunswick.

“Basically, educating the community about marine debris,” said Waaler, including hosting educational events and cleanups like the one Saturday.

She said marine life ingesting debris can block digestive systems, meaning the animal doesn’t get proper nutrition.

“The debris also has entanglement risks, especially for larger wildlife like whales or seals,” she said.

Birds’ legs can also become entangled and there are strangulation risks.

June 8 is World Ocean Day and coincides with Ocean Week Canada from June 2 to 11. The Huntsman, for several years, has hosted a beach cleanup in southwestern New Brunswick either the weekend before or after June 8, depending on the tide schedule.

Volunteers recorded the types and amounts of debris found during the cleanup. The Huntsman forwards the data to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States, which is a requirement for one of the grants the Huntsman receives.

“We’re part of an international collaborative, we’re the only Canadian partner,” said Waaler.

The data is useful for policy-making and working to influence legislation related to plastic bans, as well as for public education of what and how much debris is found in marine environments.

The centre recently received a provincial Environmental Trust Fund grant for Debris Free Fundy. Waaler said that funding is dedicated to community outreach such as school education programs and beach cleanups.

The Burgess family, featuring Joelene, Adam and their son, Shaw, drove from Hampton to participate in the cleanup.

Joelene saw a post on Facebook about the event and said Shaw loves the ocean.

“(We) thought it would be a great way to spend the day, but also do something for the environment at the same time,” she said.

Adam said this is the first cleanup they’ve participated in.

Sea glass, rope, bottle caps, candy wrappers were some of the garbage they found.

“Lots of cigarettes,” added Shaw.

Shaw said he wanted to go to the cleanup because he likes finding sea glass and most would be going home with him at the end of the day.