11-year-old environmentalist wants to stop cigarette butts from washing into the ocean

One cigarette butt can contaminate approximately 7.5 litres of water, says 11-year-old Aniela Guzikowski and she wants smokers to know that flicking a butt into the street can make fish sick.

The Port Moody resident has been volunteering at the Mossom Creek Hatchery for over a year. She is actively involved in hatchery happenings  including the fertilization, release and conservation of salmon.

During her hours spent volunteering, Guzikowski discovered the impact one discarded cigarette can have on fish and wants smokers to take notice and take action.

'I don't want to shame smokers'

Guzikowski told CBC's The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn that the chemicals in cigarettes can cause scoliosis in salmon, twisting their spine and impacting their ability to fend for themselves in the wild.

"I don't want to shame smokers," said Guzikowski. "We want to provide solutions to help."

The simplest solution is to toss those butts in the trash, not on the ground.

Paul Steeves

According to Guzikowski, the filters on cigarettes are made from cellulose acetate "designed to look and feel like cotton" and when they end up in storm drains and make their way to the ocean they are poisoning fish habitats.

Aniela's mother Vicki calls her daughter the Mary Poppins of salmon because of her dedication to their well-being. It was Vicky who took Guzikowski to the local hatchery for the first time at age 10 because her daughter — an aspiring veterinarian — wanted to find a place to volunteer.

Now she occasionally drags her friends along, too.

Kids can make a difference, said Guzikowski. "Everything helps, even a little bit."

Guzikowsi recently launched a campaign called Butt Free BC.

The public is invited to join her at Rocky Point Park in Port Moody on June 8 to help collect discarded cigarettes from the shoreline.