The Charlotte Isles Cleanup
Tackling marine debris in the outer Bay of Fundy
First initiated in 1993, the Nature Trust’s Charlotte Isles Cleanup is an annual event in which a different coastal nature preserve in Charlotte County is selected for a shoreline cleanup every year (see list below for past cleanup dates and locations). It has now been held continuously since 2002 and has grown to be one of our most popular public volunteer events. It is also one of our most important public engagement events, as the issue of marine debris is so pervasive in this region.
In 2014, the Nature Trust began registering the Annual Charlotte Isles Cleanup with the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup—an initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to clean Canadian shorelines and collect data about marine and aquatic debris. Participants are asked to track the types and quantities of marine debris on data sheet, which helps to create a system of observing the patterns and types of debris that accumulates on the shoreline to hopefully identify solutions in the future. It is clear that a collaborative approach between citizens, other NGOs, and industry is required to tackle this global issue on a local level.
A global issue
There is no denying that marine debris is a major global issue. Marine debris can come in many forms of man-made objects, but, overwhelmingly, it is plastics that are finding their way into the oceans of the world, accounting for 60 to 80 per cent of all marine debris. In a study released in the journal Science in February 2015, it was estimated that between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic waste alone is entering the world’s oceans each year. Lead author, Jenna Jambeck, was quoted in an article about the study saying that the middle range of this estimate (approximately eight million metric tons) is the equivalent of “five plastic grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world.”
Aside from the aesthetic displeasure that garbage strewn along a coastline can bring, it can also be incredibly hazardous to marine wildlife who may ingest marine debris, mistaking it for prey or become entangled in it. In 1996, it was shown that entanglement and ingestion of marine debris affected at least 267 species worldwide, including 86 per cent of sea turtle species, 44 per cent of seabirds, 43 per cent of marine mammals and numerous fish and crustaceans. Another impact identified includes the spread of invasive species that affix themselves to the floating marine debris. Economic losses can also be caused by marine debris especially for those using coastal resources, as collisions with marine debris may cause damage to boats and equipment.
On a local level
The length and depth of the Bay of Fundy results in its extreme tidal range, which has earned its recognition of having the ‘highest tides in the world’. This phenomenon creates nutrient-rich upwellings that can support high concentrations of plankton, providing for diverse marine wildlife in the region. This extreme tidal range also brings large amounts of marine debris onto the shoreline.
Specifically in the Charlotte County/Passamaquoddy area of the Bay of Fundy, the issue of ‘persistent industrial marine debris’ (PIMD) has been studied previously, as many marine-based industries such as aquaculture, commercial fishing, and marine transport are active in the region. The study found that the most common PIMD items found to accumulate on shorelines in this area include fishing nets, aquaculture pens, tarpaulin or plastic sheeting, 55-gallon drums, Styrofoam floats, and pallets, all of which are made of plastics and other non-biodegradable synthetics.
Within this same region, the Nature Trust protects over 500 hectares in 14 coastal nature preserves, including several Fundy isles (see figure below). Many of these remote, uninhabited islands support large colonies of nesting seabirds and other marine wildlife, so these cleanups are important for ensuring the future health of their feeding and nesting grounds.
The marine debris that has been collected by the Nature Trust over the many years of the Charlotte Isles Cleanup comes from industrial sources in the form of discarded fishing and aquaculture materials like rope, buoys, and old salmon cages, as well as from domestic sources like household appliances, bed frames, and plastic bottles. In 2004 alone, volunteers collected 1.44 tonnes of garbage and debris off the coasts of both the Caughey-Taylor Nature Preserve in Bocabec and L’Étang Islands Nature Preserve in St. George.
We rely heavily on the help of our volunteers and partners who make the Charlotte Isles Cleanup events such a success and help to put a dent in the issue of marine debris in the region. The work is not easy, but we are constantly impressed and inspired to see teams of volunteers working together to help create a healthy marine environment.
Through our annual cleanups, we have also developed partnerships with local organizations and industry who support our efforts either by joining in the cleanup, providing transportation to the cleanup locations, or picking up and properly disposing of the waste. Going forward, we will continue to initiate these cleanup events and also strive to work with other organizations and industry partners to develop solutions to reduce the accumulation of waste in in the Charlotte County/Passamaquoddy area of the Bay of Fundy.
If you would like to learn more or get involved with future cleanup events, please contact Richelle Martin, Stewardship Coordinator at email@example.com or (506) 457-2398.
Past Charlotte Isles Cleanup Events
- 2002: Barnes Island and L’Étang Islands; Maine Island Trail Association partnered and supplied volunteer base for the day and 18 aluminum skiffs to transport garbage to mainland
- 2003: Islands in Passamoquoddy Bay and L’Étang Islands; 3,000 lbs. collected; Heritage Salmon supplied barge, powerboat and volunteers
- 2004: Caughey Taylor Nature Preserve and L’Étang Islands Nature Preserve
- 2005: Western Isles Nature Preserve; 1.2 tonnes collected from Barnes, Mowat and Simpson Island
- 2006: L’Etang Islands Nature Preserve
- 2009: Caughey-Taylor Nature Preserve
- 2010: Caughey-Taylor Nature Preserve
- 2011: Meredith Houseworth Memorial Seashore at Whale Cove on Grand Manan
- 2012: Meredith House Memorial Seashore and Thomas B. Munro Memorial Shoreline on Grand Manan; collected nearly three truckloads of garbage and aquaculture debris along Whale Cove
- 2013: South Wolf Island Nature preserve; partnered with Connors Bros. Cloverleaf Seafoods Company and Huntsman Marine Science Centre and collected over 1,100 lbs. of garbage
- 2014: Meredith Houseworth Memorial Seashore; officially began collecting data for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup
- 2015: Frye Island Nature Preserve; partnered with Eastern Charlotte Waterways, Cooke Aquaculture, Connors Bros. Cloverleaf Seafoods Company, Village of Blacks Harbour, and Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup
 Michelle Allsopp et al., Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans, Amsterdam: Greenpeace International, 2006, p. 9 http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/planet-2/report/2007/8/plastic_ocean_report.pdf.
 Jenna R. Jambeck et al., “Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean.” Science. Vol. 347 no. 6223 (2015): pp. 768-771.
 John Schwartz, “Study Finds Rising Levels of Plastics in Oceans,” The New York Times, last modified February 12, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/science/earth/plastic-ocean-waste-levels-going-up-study-says.html?_r=0.
 Allsopp et al., p. 22.
 Christine Anne Smith, Persistent Industrial Marine Debris In Charlotte County and the Passamaquoddy Area, Eastern Charlotte Waterways Incorporated, 2002, p. 11, http://www.ecwinc.org/Publications/Entries/2011/6/8_Marine_files/pimd.pdf.