Small ship tourism saving B.C. beaches with marine debris cleanup

In the first week of cleanup activities, more than 26 tons of marine debris was pulled from the ocean
  • Sep 18, 2020
  • 302 words
  • 2 minutes
people pull debris from ocean Expand Image

With small ship tourism — cruises of less than 40 people — effectively halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maple Leaf Adventures saw an opportunity to both stay in business and help clean up the ocean at the same time — using their usual tourism vessels, they embarked on a cleanup mission along the B.C. coast. 

On Aug. 18, with funding from the Marine Debris Removal Initiative and approvals from Indigenous governments in the area, a fleet of seven Canadian-owned small tourism ships set off for six weeks along the coastline, aiming to pull up to 100 tons of marine debris from the water, from single-use plastics to “ghost” fishing nets. Focused on the coasts of the Great Bear Rainforest, these smaller ships can go where it’s difficult for anyone else to go — few roads, difficult helicopter landing spots and a coastline dotted with reefs mean it’s a challenge to reach the shoreline for most people or vehicles. 

“When it became clear we would not be able to operate under normal circumstances this summer and had to cancel a sold-out season, we turned our attention to the environment to give back to the coast that sustains us,” says Kevin Smith, CEO of Maple Leaf Adventures and co-lead on the project with Russell Markel of Outer Shores Expeditions. “We dreamed up an initiative for which there weren’t yet any dedicated resources.”

A number of scientists are also on the crew, which will allow for data collection about the debris, to be provided to the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy. The project is being coordinated by the Wilderness Tourism Association of B.C.

Read more about marine debris and follow the #BCCoastalCleanup on Twitter to see the ongoing work. 


Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content


How to stop a gold rush

The new movement building flourishing tourism hubs across Canada – one sustainable example at a time

  • 3297 words
  • 14 minutes
A painted portrait of a ship on the ocean waves


Bluenose: Behind the sails

The symbolism of the iconic Canadian fishing and racing schooner Bluenose may be as relevant today as it was 100 years ago when the ship first hit the water

  • 3226 words
  • 13 minutes


Documentary filmmakers find 1895 steamship wreck in Lake Huron

Yvonne Drebert and Zach Melnick set out to make a documentary about invasive quagga mussels in the Great Lakes. Along the way, they found the wreck of what is likely the steamship Africa, last seen on a stormy October night in 1895.

  • 2943 words
  • 12 minutes
Climate strike Victoria BC


Why Canada should recognize its citizens’ environmental rights

David Boyd, a Canadian environmental lawyer and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, reveals how recognizing the human right to a healthy environment can spur positive action for the planet

  • 1444 words
  • 6 minutes