Storytelling | Adventure | Plastic pollution
Reading time: About 5 minutes
Text by Anne-Marie Asselin
Photos by Anne-Marie Asselin, Jean-Sébastien Létourneau and Richard Mardens
Posted on September 9th 2020
World Cleaning Day is September 19. To inspire you to take part in a chore near you, here is the story of our two co-founders across the Canadian coast in search of plastic pollution!
In partnership with TAÏGA , the Blue Organization has improved its bank cleaning tour, by facilitating privileged access to the water. From Newfoundland to the Great Lakes, to cross 6 provinces in RVs, the duo's awareness-raising work was no small task, especially in the summer period, with the high traffic of tourism.
Discover their story of adventures in the discovery of the coastal environment of our region.
Reconnecting with my country and my province
Quebec, I said I knew it because I had already been in a few regions such as Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspésie. I saw Percé, Tadoussac, I went to Rimouski, to the Bic National park. But for 2 years now, I have started to discover Quebec, for real. It is the work that brought me on the road, to travel the 4 corners of the beautiful province, accompanied by my sidekick, my boyfriend and business partner: Jeanseb!
As soon as in 2012, during a scientific sailing expedition in which I was partaking (I am a marine biologist and a professional diver), I saw a sea of plastic stretching from Bermuda to Costa Rica. There were micro particles, like small confettis, distributed in the first 3 meters of depth. But there were also larger debris, intact objects that I recognized from my daily use: bottles of water or shampoo floating on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. I saw it constantly, and not only at sea: on the beaches and shores, in the mangroves, in the rivers, lakes, and plenty established underwater… As if the ocean was responsible for spitting out the excess plastic on the banks, or swallowing it forever. I witnessed through the years, that this type of pollution is on the rise, at an alarming rate, in all the seas of the world. The side effects have devastating effects on wildlife, ecosystems, climate change and ...
“ By 2030, the global production of plastic waste could increase by 41% & the amount
accumulated in the ocean could
Then one day, I came back to Quebec and I anchored myself there, for the first time in 15 years. Thinking that the pollution was mainly elsewhere, I realized quite quickly by the very fact that our shorelines and our rivers were not necessarily in a better state than certain beaches in Latin America or Asia for example.
It was therefore in May 2019 that Jean-Sébastien and I began a cleaning tour of eastern Canada, including Quebec, in an RV, during 4 months. Sometimes by paddle board or canoe, sometimes freediving, and especially on foot, we have documented and cleaned nearly 500,000 m2 of beach, right here! Exploring the Canadian coastal environment allowed us to discover a universe so unique, diverse, impressive! There is no longer any question of going overseas for us, when Canada, Quebec offers so much beauty, space and natural resources! Did you know that Canada has the longest coastline in the world, bordering 3 out of 5 oceans?
In addition to its wonders, we also have a sad observation in our own country: plastic pollution is indeed present in the Atlantic Ocean, in the St.Lawrence's Gulf, Estuary and River, in our lakes and streams. Not a place escapes it. Not just in India or the Pacific Islands, some believe!
From Newfoundland to the Great Lakes
6 Canadian provinces
12,000 km in VR
500,000 m2 of shores
26 clean ups
1. Gros Morne (TN) 2. St-John (TN) 3. Canso (NE) 4. Halifax, NE 4. Cavendish (PEI) 5. Bay of Fundy (NB) 6. Bouctouche (NB)
7. Carleton (QC) 8. Sainte-Anne-des-Monts (QC) 9. Green Island (QC) 10. Charlevoix (QC) 11. Quebec (QC)
12. Île d'Orléans (QC) 13. Sainte-Croix (QC) 14. Trois-Rivières, Millette River (QC)
15. Montreal, Lachine Canal (QC) 16. Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-lac (QC) 17. Gatineau, Pétrie Island (QC)
18. Ottawa, mooney's beach (ON) 19. Turkey Point, Lake Ontario (ON) 20. Wasaga Beach, Lake Huron (ON)
21. Sauble beach, Lake Huron (ON) 22. Grand Bend, Lake Huron (ON) 23. Port Stanley, Lake Erie (ON)
24. Port Dover, Lake Erie (ON) 25. Niagara falls (ON) 26. Sunset beach, Lake Ontario 27. Kelson beach, Lake Ontario
The St. Lawrence
Quebec is crossed by one of the most important rivers in America, the St. Lawrence, which connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the only outlet from the Great Lakes basin. In a way, it represents the vein of Quebec, flowing and flushing towards the Atlantic. It contains a rich biodiversity, but very fragile; think of the blue whale or the beluga whales, both species being endangered. It also supports several important economic activity sectors for the province, both tourism and maritime that people depend on.
Except that he's sick, because of human activity and pollution. And since the St. Lawrence is the heart of our beautiful province, it is important to keep it in good health.
Did you know that 80% of the plastic in the oceans comes from rivers and streams located inside continents? It is these tributaries located in the heart of the land that collect the plastics and pollution carrying it with the currents to the oceans, which accumulate them and swallow them up. Our responsibility is far from small in North America, despite what some may think, and despite the distance from the coast and the sea ...
The principle here is not to slap yourself on the fingers, far from the intention. But we must clearly begin by understanding the extent of the problem in our own country, and then put into perspective the initiatives to be taken to resolve the problem. Our solution to Jean-Sébastien and I begins with awareness and action. But these are just two facets of so many things that are being developed and realized! To help spread the initiatives and the word, we do a lot of collaborations to push the message further and above all, in a positive way.
9% of plastics are recycled,
4% are incinerated and
86% end up in the landfill
per capita, a
quantity of waste.
Canadians, and Quebecers, are among the largest producers of waste on the planet, ahead of the United States and China,
according to a report reviewing
the performance of nearly 200 countries
in this domain.
Unity is strength
Water sports are the perfect niche! Sports communities use and recognize the importance of waterways. This unconditional love prompts them to get involved without comparable in cleaning activities. Whether it is sport freediving, scuba diving, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, etc., no community is immune.
Last summer we decided to use our TAIGA paddle boards to clean up on water, in rivers, in lakes or even on the river. Our boards allow us to bring back waste found in the environment, simply using a bucket or a diving net attached to the front. Each time we went on an adventure, we came back with plastic found floating on the surface, or encrusted on the banks not easily accessible without floating boats. And to discover the aquatic and marine environment of Quebec, it allows to get involved concretely in the preservation of these, while combining the useful with the pleasant!
Individually or in small groups, especially this summer, you can also join the #PlasticfreeStLawrence movement. Prepare a bucket or a bag to collect waste for your next aquatic adventure!
Every waste counts, for real!
Go back to basics, and see the extent of the work to be done here.
I am so proud to be from Quebec, but we have to admit that there is work and research to be done before achieving a healthy balance between our river, its biodiversity and the humans who live there.
Because we protect what we love.
Anne-Marie et Jean-Sébastien
Co-founders of the Blue Organization
L'Organisation Bleue is a non-profit organization, based in Quebec and founded in 2018 by two young entrepreneurs. The organization does environmental awareness and popularization of science, through the creative media.
Our co-founders saw a need to attach the environment with a wave of positivism, in front of the alarmist observations of the mainstream media. Creativity and scientific popularization go very well together by combining their expertise, the arts and science to better understand the environment in which we live. Through an inspiring approach, let yourself be surprised by their adventure stories which today inspires an entire community through action and mutual aid!