"Vancouver Island MP frustrated over lack of action from Ottawa on ocean debris cleanup"

by Hunter on November 10, 2017 - 3:32pm

The industry of cargo shipping handles the bulk of international trade and has made it possible to ship all sorts of goods to places around the world. Cargo ships carry tens of thousands of tons of materials, which reduces costs and increases efficiency of shipping, however this efficiency presents an array of potential environmental issues, such as shipping container spills. Governments around the world must have plans or mechanisms in place that deal with spills of large magnitudes in order to properly clean up the debris to reduce environmental impacts.

The article published on November 6, 2017 by CBC news in British Columbia titled “Vancouver Island MP frustrated over lack of action from Ottawa on ocean debris cleanup” discusses how Gord Johns presented the lack of a comprehensive action plan to deal with marine debris spill cleanups to the House of Commons. The cargo vessel that was responsible for the spill was a Korean company called Hanjin. Following the spill, the company filled for bankruptcy and dropped all financial responsibility for the clean up, which left Tofino, BC in a tight spot. The Pacific Rim National Park petitioned the bankruptcy to the court and was rewarded $72,000 to support clean up efforts, however the majority of the clean up was done by 50 volunteers who cleaned up over 900kg of debris and they did not receive any financial compensation until 6 months after the government received the money.

The mayor of Tofino, Josie Osborne and Gord Johns express their concerns and state that there must be more coordination when it comes to these issues. There is confusion as to who is responsible for what, and this causes a delay in the cleanup to effectively reduce potential environmental impacts. Johns Gord has also reached out to the House of Commons 16 times to try and spark an implementation of a comprehensive action plan to deal with marine spills, and to have the government recognize that plastic pollution is a huge threat to communities, wildlife, and ecosystems, however there has been no change.

The types of conflict existing in this situation increase the environmental impacts. The problem between Tofino and the Federal government is in the form of value conflict due to a difference in opinions of who is responsible for management of the clean up. The volunteers in Tofino were responsible for the majority of the clean up, which they believed needed to happen immediately, and there was a lack of coordination with which Federal agency was supposed to help. This lack of coordination ultimately led to a yearlong process, which causes the process to cost more and to increase the magnitude of the environmental impacts. This lack of coordination with the Federal government will result in future behavioural conflicts when it comes to future beach clean ups on the Western, or Eastern coasts of Canada. Behavioural conflict occurs when there are poor interactions between two groups and in this situation Tofino is already facing a behavioural conflict with the Federal government for two reasons. The first is the length of time it took for Parks Canada to send the $72,000 to Tofino, and the second is the lack of acknowledgment that the Federal government has had for MP Gord Johns 16 requests of recognizing the implications of plastic pollution on the well being of wildlife, ecosystems and communities.

Approaching this type of resource management requires National coordination. The tools that can help with this are regulatory, and economic. Regulatory tools would require the government to instate penalties for causing pollution, however it is difficult to instate this tool when the company in this example declared bankruptcy and dropped all responsibilities. On the other hand, economic tools can be used to raise incentives of clean up participation of agencies by providing rewards to those who provide aid in the clean up. The types of tools that we already saw to be effective in this example were voluntary instruments as well as public outreach and educational tools.

As the shipping industry grows and more products are delivered across the oceans every year, it is inevitable that there will be more events like this that cause beach pollution all over the world. Faster action and better coordination within the government is the key to efficiently cleaning up the mess.

Thank you,

Hunter Sheridan

Article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-island-mp-frust...

Other sources:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/shipping-container-tofino...
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/parks-canada-should-pay-t...
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/clayoquot-clean-up-1.4091859