Two young island leaders take action

Krysta Reed

Sounder News

Wednesday, July 10 2019

Gabriola Ocean Watch was launched three weeks ago by 14-year-old Kalena Mackay, who felt a strong desire to be actively engaged in helping the environment; especially in the neighbourhood where she has lived her entire life. With the help of her long-time friend, Tansi Robinson, the two have collected three large bags of debris to date. 

Mackay spends four to five days each week, for 30 to 60 minutes, walking the shoreline at Berry Point and collecting Styrofoam, cigarette butts, plastic bags/containers and miscellaneous items abandoned or washed up on shore. Robinson joins her once a week to help collect the garbage and debris, the two often using sticks and force to retrieve deeply embedded pieces of Styrofoam.

The youth are predominantly finding large pieces of Styrofoam at Berry Point, as well as finding microplastics, which are very small pieces of plastic or Styrofoam that is not picked up by water filtration systems. This concerns both youth because the microplastics pollute the environment and make their way to oceans and shorelines. Fish and other aquatic animals often eat microplastics, which can cause death or severe health problems. When asked what inspired Mackay to start Gabriola Ocean Watch, she said, “At the time I was watching many sea life docs and learning about the plastic islands. Right in front of my house there was tons of Styrofoam and plastic. You want to do whatever you can, this is the least I can do.”

When asked what gave Robinson inspiration to help with the project, she said, “I have never liked climate change. It would stress me out a lot because I thought the earth was dying. I didn’t like it. When I was little, I wanted oil tankers to stop but didn’t know how. But I went to protests.”

What are their hopes for this project? Mackay said, “That it will grow, people will be helping each other out and cleaning up.”

How can people get involved? Mackay said, “Spending a bit of time out of [their] day, bringing cloth bags and picking up whatever they can find. There are so many documentaries that [they] can watch and learn [from]every day.”

Both Mackay and Robinson hope the community will join in their cause and do their part in keeping Gabriola free of garbage and debris, especially by the shorelines. 

In looking to the future, these two young leaders have big plans. They hope to host a fundraiser for their project and pursue careers where they can continue to make a difference. Mackay said, “I want to be an activist and environmental lawyer; help fight against climate change.” 

Robinson said, “I’d like to get involved with Greenpeace [because] they are saving animals and making a difference.”

Follow Gabriola Ocean Watch on Instagram under the @gabriolaoceanwatch tag