A boat falls apart after Salish Sea Industrial Services use a crane to lift it out of the water near Sooke back in September. (Dead Boat Disposal Society Photo)

Group continues to pull sunken, abandoned wrecks from Salish Sea

Dead Boats society inching towards 89 wrecks pulled from Capital Regional waters

Two more boats that were destined to sink or end up on abandoned on the beach were pulled out of Salt Spring Island waters on Monday.

That brings the total number of derelict, abandoned and wrecked boats taken out of waters in the Capital Regional District into the 70s. The latest came from Ganges harbour and Montague (Galiano).

“I actually lost count but it’s in the 70s, with maybe 18 to go before the March 31 fiscal year end,” said John Roe, organizer behind the Dead Boats Disposal Society and the man who previously led the cleanup of the Gorge Waterway.

READ MORE: 17 abandoned boats around Salt Spring to be removed with federal funding

John Roe of the Dead Boats Disposal Society.

Roe works closely with the federal government and the CRD in funding the removal of the boats. He’s identified hundreds along the B.C. coast. Salish Sea Industrial Services manages the actual removal and disposal of boats with other contractors. It can get complicated, with Cold Water Divers and other seasoned mariners recruited to find innovative ways to pull some of the boats, or pieces of boats, off the ocean floor.

“I’m sad to say we’ve only pulled in 89,300 metric tonnes of marine debris since we started,” Roe said.

For the past year the CRD has been providing 25 per cent towards the cost of removals, Roe said. He will have to wait to see if the Dead Boats Disposal Society can continue with the initiative. They’ve been able to identify and assess boats and already Roe has many more on his list as they move up-Island.

In 2018, the federal government’s Abandoned Boats Program allotted $404,350 to the Salish Sea Industrial Services to help remove wrecks from around Salt Spring.

READ ALSO: Long abandoned boats cleared from Cadboro Bay

Roe has been in Ladysmith collecting data and running surveys and is told there should be a new or renewed program, hopefully in April. Roe also has a memorandum of understanding with the regional government.

“Oftentimes I am surveying the locals who know where the sunken boats are, or which boats are abandoned,” Roe said. “Even more so I am looking for people to hand over the ownership of their boats before they are abandoned. There’s no list. There’s been a lack of governments sharing info.”

Roe likens it to B.C.’s junk car problem of the 1970s era. Cars were rotting in driveways, back yards and front yards. B.C. created a program to have derelict automobiles hauled away and, with a media campaign, it was quite successful.

“I never thought, in my whole life, I’d sit down in front of the computer long enough to do what I’ve done,” Roe said.

Next up are boats in Brentwood Bay (one that’s been sunk three years), one in Burgoyne on Salt Spring, one in Bedwell (Pender), and five more out in Sooke.

READ ALSO: Swim aims to cleanup Gorge’s reputation

Roe is also adding a commercially licensed drone operator to assist in finding the find vessels.

“We’ve also invested in a sonar, and all in all, our work is getting faster and more efficient,” Roe said. “We do everything, but it’s the participation from the community that’s important.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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The Castle Finn live-aboard on Salt Spring after it was burned. The hull was removed last week. (Dead Boat Disposal Society Photo)

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