Derelict boats abandoned near Harbledown Island. (Contributed photo)

North Island First Nations ‘take matters into their own hands’ with environmental clean-up

Mamalilikulla guardians step up to clear abandoned boats after no response from natural resource officers

An environmental clean-up to get rid of abandoned derelict boats, drums and batteries in Broughton Archipelago will be undertaken by Mamalilikulla guardians.

Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the Mamalilikulla guardians will join forces with B.C. Parks, Nanwakolas Council, and the provincial MaPP initiative, to undertake cleaning activities, said Jake Smith, Mamalilikulla’s guardian program manager.

Smith first reported the incident to natural resource officers in 2018 when he saw seven derelict gillnetter boats abandoned on Harbledown Island.

“There’s at least 20 yards of garbage to clean along with big objects like aluminum drums and boat batteries,” said Smith.

While patrolling the First Nation’s territory, the guardians also came across objects dumped on Dong Chung Bay on Hanson Island and Freshwater Bay on Swanson Island.

These littering activities prompted huge concerns as some of these objects had been left on clam beds and in front of rivers where salmon spawn, Smith said.

While the instances were reported to natural resource officers, Smith said that he did not get any response from them and that “nothing had been done about it.”

This prompted the guardians to “take matters into their own hands” and organize a clean-up. They reached out to other First Nations like Namgis and Tlowitsis too to help out with the plan.

“All I want is for our territory to be clean and healthy for our marine life because everyone will benefit from the ocean’s food sources,” said Smith.

This is not the first instance where he has come across environmental pollutants discarded on their territory. While patrolling the land a couple of years ago, Smith came across nine 45 gallon drums filled with jet fuel that was abandoned on Hoeya Sound, Knights Inlet.

Fuel from one of the drums had spilled and contaminated the soil which was very close to the ocean. With help from the Coast Guards, the guardians removed and discarded these drums from the territory.

Smith has been the guardian program manager for almost four years. As ‘eyes and ears of the land’, the guardians are constantly “monitoring and protecting” the First Nation’s land, he said.

Some of these responsibilities include eelgrass and kelp surveys, bear and salmon stream monitoring and keeping an eye on logging activities.

“The whole ecosystem is interconnected,” said Smith, and maintained that littering adversely affects the ecosystem.

“If we don’t take care of these environmental concerns, it defeats the whole purpose of conservation,” Smith said.

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