The Tla’amin Oyster plant in Okeover went through a major underwater clean up by the Deep-Search Diving team, led by Director, Dylan Smith. This project took place throughout the month of July and has resulted in a cleaner sea. The cleanup was funded by Shellfish Farm Environmental Plan (SHEP), a new program launched by the BC Shellfish Growers Association (BCSGA). SHEP requires sites to be kept much cleaner than what they have previously been, to protect the environment and wildlife. Other shellfish plants and farms will undergo the same clean up.
The dive team collected the garbage by using lines/floatation devices to help lift some of the heavier debris from off the ocean floor. Aluminum skiffs were used to carry debris back to the shore or to be brought back to the larger boat. Dylan mentioned that liquifying sand was something that had to be worked around, to counter that, the dive team used stingers to uncover the garbage.
“The easiest things to bring up to the surface would be lifted first. Next, everything would be sorted into types, which really helps the recycling process.” Says Dylan
The most common type of debris that was picked up from this site were mostly from aquaculture, that being commercial boating items. Things that have fallen off of peoples boats were also very common as well. “It’s all human-made.” Dylan says.
“Within the one hectare of the Okeover Farm, we cleaned up the most debris we have seen in our 11 years of operating which was very shocking.” Despite all of the boating debris, Dylan explains the coolest thing found was a 1970’s boombox that was resting on the ocean floor.
When doing a dive clean in an oyster plant site there must be encounters with marine life right?
“There were hundreds of encounters from at least 50 different species. We saw ground fish, kelp species, crustaceans, and lots of octopus. We would find the octopus hiding in plastic tubes that would get brought to the surface. Baby octopus would be found in the smaller tubes, which was very cute.”
The Deep Dive team had eight people helping clean-up the site. Dylan explained that three of them were volunteers. The others work with him across the region, helping organizations, such as DFO and fisheries, as well as private clients to clean their aquatic sites.
“Our goal is to clean up cannery aquasite debris, removing and recycling what we can so that little gets thrown into the garbage.”
The team has a busy year ahead of them, being booked up for the next seven months with dive cleans throughout the whole coastal region.
Abby Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, qathet Living