David Jensen has been waging war with plastic marine debris for years, but not in the day-at-the-beach kind of way you might imagine. He has chosen to steward the most difficult and worst-impacted foreshores of northern Vancouver Island, in the Cape Scott region. And he does it alone, from a paddleboard, for weeks at a time. Or at least he did, until tragedy struck this summer....
David and I met up a few years back, as I was also conducting marine debris removal in the region. It is a perfect partnership: with his expert paddleboard skills, David can get into almost any little pocket beach, despite the rocks and surf that make them inaccessible for most boats. And our charity, Canadian Coastal Research Society, raises the funds needed for the expensive part of the work: the debris all has to be removed by helicopter and truck.
Working together this year, we removed 10.5 metric tonnes (that's nearly 24,000 lb) of plastic debris. David picked up easily half of that amount himself over several weeks that he spent alone, paddling from pocket beach to pocket beach, removing the lost fishing gear, floats, foam and other plastics that degrade the habitat in this extraordinarily biodiverse region.
About the tragedy...When our crew arrived in the region in late August, I asked the helicopter pilot to go look for David at his last known location and ask him to help move the debris he'd already bagged into base camp, where the crew could sort it for disposal.
By the time the debris had all been moved, the weather was closing in. David was facing a 12-km paddle in building seas, against a headwind predicted to reach 35 knots. He wisely accepted the pilot's offer of a lift to base camp. But that meant moving his boards as well.
You probably know where this is going: south, literally. The boards--his main travelling board, an emergency backup and his surfboard--fell from the lift, smashing on contact with the rocky near-shore water. Because of the last-minute nature of the lift, it had not been pre-insured and so David is left without compensation.
For David, this loss is insurmountable. He works winters to put by enough money to spend his summers cleaning up harmful plastics. He is one of the least material people I've ever met, happy to get by on his meagre stores, supplemented by foraging in the woods and nearshore waters.
We want to help him get back on his feet--and get his feet on a paddleboard! Canadian Coastal Research Society will use your donation to replace the equipment David lost, including the 3 boards and 2 paddles. If there's anything left over, it will go to covering expenses for this summer's work.
Your donation will help us keep clearing harmful plastics from the hardest-to-reach places on the coast, preventing the death of marine mammals and seabirds.
You can read up on David's exploits on his website: https://lonepaddle.org/.
Update, September 26:
None of us who clean beaches would consider leaving behind a broken board...David and boat skipper Jason went out after the remains when the storm had passed. This is 2/3 of a paddleboard with the damaged surfboard peeking out from behind. David got the rest of the pieces in a later trip.
Update: October 3, 2023
Read more about David's exploits in this article in the Times Colonist: https://www.timescolonist.com/islander/our-community-fundraiser-helps-beach-cleaning-paddler-replace-equipment-7624850