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Cermaq clears tonnes of debris from Tofino beaches for Oceans Day

In support of our partnership with Ahousaht and the local community, we have removed several tonnes of old fish farm pens from the shoreline.

These twisted metal hulks have been part of the coastal landscape for years, shedding plastic and polystyrene into the environment.

Not anymore.

This week, just in time for World Oceans Day on June 8, helicopters hired by Cermaq airlifted huge chunks of old fish farm pen systems from several beaches near Tofino. The debris, too heavy and too large to be carried out by hand, has been sitting half-buried in sand for so long that no one remembers how they ended up on rocky, remote beaches, or which company used them in the early days of aquaculture.

“At this point, it doesn’t really matter where they came from. We decided to take on the challenge to remove this debris, because we are committed as a responsible salmon farming company to maintaining a clean ocean environment,” said Richard Finch, Cermaq Canada’s Sustainability Manager. “We recently developed a Marine Debris Policy, and what better way to show this commitment than to remove some of the large, legacy debris on this otherwise pristine coastline?”

In November 2017, members of the public reported the debris to Cermaq, prompting Finch to oversee an ambitious project to remove tons of old metal farm pens and floats. The first challenge was finding them all. They were able to pinpoint the biggest and most difficult pieces near Tofino and plan their removal for this spring, after winter storms had subsided.

Cermaq management gave the green light to funding cleanup efforts, and this week crews armed with cutting tools, shovels and strong backs hit the beaches. Over several days they chopped up the debris into chunks of less than 700 pounds each, which will then be airlifted out by helicopter.

“This debris is from long before Cermaq started farming in this region, but removing it and restoring these beautiful beaches is the right thing to do,” Finch said. “We are serious about protecting the environment, and keeping it clean. This is just one more way we can bring value and make our community and coastlines better for everyone.”

Debris was removed from Vargas Island, and from both ends of Whitesands Beach on Flores Island. It will be recycled where possible, and unrecyclable material will be brought to landfill.

Cermaq is continuing with more clean-up efforts in Clayoquot Sound. More information will be coming later this month.

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