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Have you walked along Gyro beach in Cadboro Bay lately? It looks like a graveyard for derelict vessels.

Dealing with derelict vessels can be a jurisdictional nightmare. To make matters worse, the municipal boundary between Oak Bay and Saanich puts some of these vessels in the Saanich intertidal zone and some in the Oak Bay intertidal zone. It’s even possible that one of these ships is half in Saanich and half in Oak Bay.

This is not a new situation in British Columbia. In 2014, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations released a comprehensive report entitled: Dealing with problem vessels and structures in BC waters. The report outlines the jurisdictional conundrum and specifically notes:

Often, there is no simple answer to the question: Who should be dealing with this problem?”

IMG_20150228_152420In addition, the report provides information as to who should be contacted if a derelict vessel is found. The contact information is quite detailed to specific cases but fails in the larger case when numerous derelict vessels are washed ashore. This is the situation in Cadboro Bay. In addition, the report has a caveat in the form of the following disclaimer:

Readers are cautioned that this paper is not legal advice. It is the intention of Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to update this paper as provincial and federal programs evolve.

My colleague, Adam Olsen has written a blog entry detailing longstanding municipal concerns regarding the lack of federal and provincial leadership in dealing with derelict and abandoned vessels that pollute our coastline. Most recently he worked to raise awareness of the plight of the Chilcotin Princess at the abandoned fish cannery in Namu, BC. The good news is that province and the federal government worked to remedy the situation at Namu, but the piecemeal approach to the management and disposal of derelict and abandoned wrecks is not working.

On Friday January 15, I walked the length of Gyro Beach to get a sense of the scale of the problem we are facing in the riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head. It was far worse than what I had expected. For quite some time, there has been one derelict vessel (see thumbnail to the right above) that was difficult to reach (except at low tide). Last year I’d inquired as to the possibility of removing it and quickly realized the complexity of the jurisdictional quagmire. But the situation now is very serious. Below I show a few images of the vessels that were present.

IMG_20160115_105525 IMG_20160115_105949

IMG_20160115_110431 IMG_20160115_110202

IMG_20160115_105926 IMG_20160115_110610

So where do we go from here? Clearly the status quo is not working and clearly this is neither a new problem nor one that will go away any time soon. Perhaps a way forward is to explore the innovative steps that have been taken by our friends in Washington State.

While I will be exploring broader policy solutions in the months ahead, I have sent the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations a letter (reproduced below) urging him to deal with an immediate and urgent problem. One of the many wrecks (see image below) on the beach in Cadboro Bay is immediately adjacent to Gyro Park which has been extensively upgraded and improved over the last few years. Gyro park is a regional treasure and has been the playground of several generations of young children (including my wife and me in the 1960s and 1970s and our children in the 1990s and 2000s). Having this wreck so close to a children’s playground is certainly unsafe. And we do not want to wait until an accident happens to have it removed.


Letter to Minister Thomson

Via email to: FLNR.minister@gov.bc.ca

Honourable Steve Thomson
Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Room 248, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4

Dear Minister Thomson:

Re: Derelict wreck in Cadboro Bay

I have been contacted by residents in my riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head and the Cadboro Bay Resident’s Association (“CBRA”) with respect to the beached derelict vessel Pacific Sun King that washed up on December 5, 2015. The residents are very concerned about the vessel as a hazard in Cadboro Gyro Park where it is located, on the Crown Provincial foreshore in the upper inter-tidal zone of Cadboro Bay. The vessel is interfering with public access and presents a danger to children who play in the park and in the area. This area is heavily used by the public and especially children.

The CBRA have been in contact with the Municipality of Saanich and their representatives have confirmed that the responsibility for the removal of the wreck does not fall to Saanich since it is located seaward of the formal boundaries of the park.

I am writing to ask the Provincial Government to take the necessary steps to deal with this urgent matter. In addition to a safety issue for children and residents who access the park and beach, the vessel contains a diesel fuel tank and potential seepage that is an environmental hazard.

I look forward to a reply at your earliest opportunity.

Best wishes,
Andrew Weaver, MLA
Oak Bay-Gordon Head


  1. January 17, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Andrew ….. I am one of your fervent supporters and an admirer of all that you are doing! Good job done!
    In this instance however, I almost choked on my morning coffee. The WA model is diametrically opposed to what I believe is stated GP policy …. good policy.
    The commons ought not to be on the hook for the delinquency of a few. Those of us who are responsible boat owners pay through our noses for the privilege. Insurance, including public liability, marina charges, taxes and fees, and preventative maintenance costs us well over $15,000 for a small family vessel. The delinquents don’t pay ANY of those costs. They don’t insure, anchor free, and don’t maintain their boats.
    Why should I (the commons) have to pay for their irresponsibility? Please rethink your stance on this. There must be a better solution.

    • January 17, 2016 at 10:31 pm

      Hello Tony, I agree with you that an individual should be responsible for her or hiy boat. The problem is, if an individual or company walks away from their derelict vessel, it could take years in courts to actually deal with it. If the individual or company is not going to deal with a derelict vessel in a timely fashion, we need the ability to get it out of the intertidal zone ASAP. I recognize the Washington system funds its model through fees on all boat owners, which many would believe is unfair to responsible boat owners. I understand this. What we need is a “one stop shopping” phone number and a timely remediation process IMHO. While it could take a while either in the courts or through investigation to get money back, the fact is, we cannot sit around and wait.

      I’d be interested in your ideas as to how we can remove derelict vessels in a timely fashion yet not spend many months for their owners to deal with them (if they ever choose to do so).

      What is needed is a person in BC that people can call

  2. Robert Bruce-
    January 17, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Thanks for posting this!……..In case anyone has not noticed lately…..there are “a lot” of young people (and some older) living aboard vessels lately. This phenomenon, is a result of the fact that there are a lot of poor people here on the westcoast and many of them are working poor. Living aboard a boat is and always has been an alternative for some of these people. Unfortunately, some people choose to anchor or moor their vessels in exposed areas such as Cadboro Bay, winter storms blow in and these vessels end up on the beach. In many cases “this was someone’s home”, not just a derelict vessel washed up on the beach. The cost to repair or salvage these vessels is not worth the time and money (they don’t have) so they walk away with whatever they can salvage from the disaster. This is no different than someone living in Oak Bay losing their home in a fire, except that those people would have home insurance which would cover their loss and rebuild their life………..Certainly, efforts should be made to contact the owners but I believe that provincial or federal govt. resources should be used to remove the vessels. They do however, provide us with a reminder that many members of our society are struggling in these times and we need to somehow start to solve some of those problems…………….

    • January 17, 2016 at 9:03 am

      Thank you for providing this additional context Robert. It’s a very important point.