Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup kicks off this weekend

Photo from Great Canadian Cleanup blog

Beginning Saturday, September 15 through Sunday, September 23, more than 45,000 Canadians at over 1,500 sites are banding together to fight shoreline litter, a key threat to our waterways, by participating in the 19th annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited. A conservation initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF, the Shoreline Cleanup is the largest direct action conservation initiative in Canada.

“The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a great opportunity for Canadians to make a difference in their local communities by removing harmful shoreline litter that can negatively impact the people and wildlife that depend on healthy waters,” says Jill Dwyer, manager of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, Vancouver Aquarium.

Twelve percent of Canada's surface is covered by water in the form of lakes, rivers and streams. The nation’s coastal shorelines bordering oceans total 243,000 km, making it the longest national coastline in the world.

 Every September, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup engages thousands of Canadians to clean up these shorelines – anywhere where land meets water – in their local communities. 

During the 2011 Shoreline Cleanup, more than 3,144 km of shoreline were cleaned and 143,737 kg of litter were removed from the many cleanup sites. Included in the 2011 “Dirty Dozen” list (the list of most collected litter items) were: plastic bags, cigarettes/cigarette filters and tips, food wrappers/containers,  caps/lids, plastic and glass beverage bottles, beverage cans, disposable food flatware and packaging, straws/stirrers, paper bags, and tobacco packaging/wrappers.

“The magnitude of litter items collected each year represents the potential harm of such debris on our communities and wildlife,” says Tony Maas, director of Freshwater Program at WWF. “These impacts can be far-reaching, ranging from the emission of toxins into our waters, to affecting the natural beauty and appearance of our shorelines, to entangling or being ingested by animals.”

Organisms often attach to litter as it flows through water systems, causing invasive species to infiltrate foreign habitats and damage the sensitive balance of the ecosystem. Also, wildlife entangled in litter such as plastic bags, six-pack rings, ribbon, fishing line or food wrappers can have their movements restricted, be injured or even eventually drown, suffocate or starve. For example, during last year’s Shoreline Cleanup, three foxes were found entangled in rope in Miramichi, New Brunswick, a seagull was discovered in a plastic bag in Toronto, Ontario, and a swan was found entangled in a six-pack ring beverage holder in Vancouver, B.C. Countless other animals, such as ducks, seagulls, frogs, fish, and rodents were also found entangled in litter.

Animals like sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and swallow them. This clogs their digestive tracts, leading to starvation and death. In addition, animals may accidentally use pieces of debris to build nests and shelters. Nestling and adult birds can then eat or get tangled in the debris used in their nests.

There is still time to register and join this year’s 45,000-plus Canadians who have already signed up to clean more than 1,500 locations across Canada. To learn more or register, visit

About the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, is one of the largest direct action conservation programs in Canada. A conservation initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF, the Shoreline Cleanup aims to promote understanding of shoreline litter issues by engaging Canadians to rehabilitate shoreline areas through cleanups.

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