After 21 years as a commercial sea urchin diver, Shawn Bath grew increasingly troubled by the amount of trash he saw littering the bottoms of Newfoundland harbours. In July 2018, he decided to do something about it. Since creating Clean Harbours Initiative, Shawn has devoted his passion and energy to cleaning the harbours around Newfoundland, with a goal of removing 100,000 tires and 10,000 ghost nets, and 1,000,000 lbs of ocean trash.
To date, Shawn has conducted over 50 harbour clean-ups, removing the equivalent of 1750 car tires, dozens of ghost nets, and an estimated 50,000 lbs of ocean trash. He also works to educate the public about threats to our ocean environment posed by marine plastics and abandoned and lost and discarded fishing gear – also known as “ghost gear”.
Ghost gear includes nets, traps, and line that enter the marine environment either intentionally and unintentionally, and has direct and indirect negative impacts on marine ecosystems. In addition to the financial loss incurred by fishermen, this “forever fishing” threatens aquatic animals through the continued entrapment of target and non-target species, including fish, birds, turtles, and marine mammals.
Plastic debris breaks down in the ocean environment and also poses a hazard to fish, seabirds, and marine mammals, as ingestion can be lethal.
In 2020, Shawn was the recipient of the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Stan Hodgkiss Outdoorsperson of the Year Award.