PORT AUX BASQUES, N.L. – Nikita Osmond was among the volunteers who braved the chilly spring wind on Saturday morning, June 8 for a worthy cause.
As part of World Oceans Day, volunteers dragged up trash from one section of the harbour and hauled it away or recycled what they could.
“Slinging garbage. It’s ok. I’m not above it,” laughed Osmond as she rooted through a filthy bin filled mostly with rusted cans and muddy drink bottles.
On a Saturday morning she was one of the handful of volunteers out that early.
“Nobody wanted to get up at 9 a.m.,” she said.
The clean-up project was led by the Sea Lion Dive Club, which sent six volunteer divers into the icy water. The Port aux Basques Harbour Authority, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Town of Channel Port-aux-Basques also had people pitching in to help clean up the harbour.
Mandy Ryan Francis, chair of the Harbour Authority board, was very excited to get the call from the dive club requesting a partnership for the project.
“It’s part of our mandate, you know, to try to and keep the ocean cleaner,” she said.
Paul Barter was one of two DFO officers also volunteering. He wandered the shoreline, filling a trash bag with garbage tossed there by the wind, waves or even people.
“We’re not diving today,” said Barter, who brought a boat should the need arise. “(For) any bigger items, we’ll use our boat and haul it off.”
At one point, volunteers hauled tires out of the water by tethering them onto the back of a Jeep. Tires are commonly used to line the dock and act as a buffer for boats tying up, but ropes tend to wear after years of exposure, sending the tires to the bottom of the harbour.
Among the garbage the divers had to deal with was an old shopping cart lodged in some rocks.
“It’s a little dirty,” said diver Shawn Savory of the water. “There’s a few things on the bottom for sure that’s been collecting for years. It gets a little murky when you get down there.”
The trash is highly visible to passersby, and Ryan Francis said helping to address the issue is something the new Harbour Authority board members are focused on for everyone’s benefit.
“The ocean and the harbour here in Port aux Basques, it’s not just for commercial fishermen,” she said. “It’s not just for tourists and for Marine Atlantic passengers, but it’s for people in the community, so that if you want to come by for a leisurely stroll in the evening or if you want to bring your kids to fish for connors off the wharf, or whatever it is you want to do, just come down and enjoy the view.
“You should be able to do that without having to see a lot of this stuff.”
Given the size of the Port aux Basques harbour, the volunteers could only tackle a single section this time. Although it’s hoped that the cleanup will become an annual event, Ryan Francis hopes that someday it won’t be necessary.
“Hopefully people will learn that it’s just not right to dump into the ocean anymore, so that at some point this won’t be necessary anymore and we can concentrate some of these volunteer efforts in other ways to help beautify the area and make things better,” she said.