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Trail dash highlights tsunami debris path

Sep 15 2012

A Victoria man will today attempt to run the 47-kilometre Juan de Fuca trail - which extends along the Pacific shoreline - to raise awareness about marine pollution.

Of concern to Ken Howes is debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami expected to land on the Vancouver Island shoreline over the next few years.

The 42-year-old isn't raising money, just awareness, which he said is lacking. An estimated 1.5 million tonnes of debris is expected to arrive over many months on the west coast of North America.

"I think the public has probably a lot of questions about the kind of debris we'll see," Howes said. "It's important to get information out on what to expect and what people can do if they're noticing debris on beaches where they live."

There have already been some early surprises, such as a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that washed up on Haida Gwaii and a large dock that landed on an Oregon beach.

The avid trail runner and anthropologist has worked in the provincial government's environmental protection division and is aware of efforts to prepare for the debris.

He wanted to hike the trail, located between Jordan River and Port Renfrew, but then thought it would be more of a challenge to run its full length. After undertaking marathon training for four months - the trail is five kilometres longer than a marathon, with some tough terrain - Howes is aiming to complete the trek in about eight hours. Some running friends have offered to keep him company, and while he was prepared for a solo endeavour, Howes said he will be glad to have support.

The run will coincide with the kickoff of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, a conservation initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium and the World Wildlife Fund. Last year, more than 56,000 participants picked up nearly 144 tonnes of trash from Canada's shorelines, including 66 tonnes in B.C.

The collected debris, which includes plastic packaging, fishing nets and cigarette butts, can kill animals, affect fishing communities and create hazards on beaches, organizers say.

Lucas Harris, chairman of the Island chapter of the nonprofit environmental Surfrider Foundation, called Howes's quest "very commendable."

The group runs its own beach cleanups on the Island. Many people aren't aware of the effect debris has on the shoreline, he said.

"Getting people to understand these impacts is the first step in moving forward with a response," Harris said. "Marine debris is already a chronic problem, and the tsunami debris is only adding to the issue."

On the web: tsunamirun.ca, shorelinecleanup.ca, surfrider.org.

TSUNAMI DEBRIS

If you find Japanese tsunami debris:

? If you don't know what it is, don't touch it. Potentially hazardous debris should be reported to local police or B.C.'s spill line at 1-800-663-3456.

? Recycle any plastics or metals.

? Treat personal items with respect. Send as much detail as possible to disasterdebris@noaa.gov.

? Drums, fuel tanks and containers should not be touched. Call B.C.'s spillreporting line at 1-800-663-3456.

? Report derelict vessels or cargo to Transport Canada at 1-604-775-8867.

? Human remains should be reported to local police by calling 911. For more information, go to tsunamidebrisbc.ca.

- Source: B.C. Environment Ministry

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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