In This Issue: Surfers Assist With Ocean Plastic Accumulation Research

Different days, same problem. Photo: Nic Teichrob

words :: Talon Gillis

The ocean is drowning in plastic waste and while non-profit groups around the planet work towards solutions, a new group based out of Nanaimo, BC is joining the fight – but you have to be a surfer to take part.

The Rugged Coast Research Society (RCRS) is currently conducting a Marine Plastic Accumulation and Restoration project along BC’s west coast. The primary objectives are to assess just how much plastic is washing ashore and where, to map the priority locations, and then remove as much garbage as possible.

However, many remote BC beaches are exposed to the open Pacific. With constant swell and large waves making boat access dangerous and/or impossible, the RCRS crew simply anchors outside the break, catches the swell and surfs to the beach.

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Comprised of marine industry professionals, biologists and entrepreneurs that share a passion for marine ecology and recreation, the RCRS team focuses on beaches too exposed to the open ocean for boats to land. After (hopefully) catching some killer barrels on the ride in, they assess plastic accumulation to gather information for future strategic clean up missions. So far, the RCRS has successfully mapped a number of locations along the west coast and as far north as Calvert Island in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Plastics and Styrofoam enter the ocean through improper waste management around the world, as well as from tsunamis and floods. The plastic rides global currents and makes its way to shore, where wave and tidal forces (as well as UV and microbial decomposition) break it down into smaller pieces. These fragmented plastics can resemble marine food and enter the food chain, causing fatal digestive issues in a number of marine species. By surveying and identifying major plastic accumulation beaches on the BC coast, the RCRS hopes to better understand which beaches need the most attention in order to remove as much plastic as possible before it can be fragmented and ingested.

“It gives a great sense of accomplishment to see all of the time I have spent developing boating and surfing skills being used to help our environment,” says RCRS team member Renny Talbot, a Fisheries Biologist with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “And, of course, it’s pretty fun too.”

To learn about how you can take part, head over to