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In 1994, a small team of employees and volunteers at the Vancouver Aquarium decided to clean up a local beach in Stanley Park to help protect the city’s shorelines. They submitted the data collected during this event to the International Coastal Cleanup, a global program managed by the Ocean Conservancy. By 1997, 400 volunteers were participating in 20 sites across British Columbia as part of the Great BC Beach Cleanup.
In 2002, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup emerged as a national program, providing all Canadians the opportunity to make a difference in their local communities. Cleanups started appearing in every province and territory, and by 2003, more than 20,000 volunteers were taking part.
Over the following years, the program continued to expand its reach and influence, aided by the support of sponsors, donors, and partners (such as WWF Canada, who became a full partner of the Shoreline Cleanup in 2010). Public support and interest in the program also grew as Canadians gradually became more aware of the harmful effects of shoreline litter on both fragile aquatic ecosystems and people.
In 2012, the Shoreline Cleanup celebrated its 19th anniversary with more than 57,000 volunteers, and expanded the spring cleanup to include school groups in Ontario and British Columbia. Today, it is recognized as one of the largest direct action conservation programs, as well as the most significant contributor to the International Coastal Cleanup in Canada.
One year, participants found an 18k gold ring during a cleanup in Ontario. Last year, RCMP divers removed a submerged car from a river in Surrey. It had been reported stolen two years previous.