ripley's aquarium shoreline cleanup

With water levels in Lake Ontario reaching a record high this spring, a large amount of debris has been washed onto our shoreline, polluting Toronto’s beautiful beaches and harming the wildlife that calls this city home.

Regardless of the origin, litter in the environment can have devastating consequences for wildlife. Animals mistake litter for food or become entangled in single-use plastic bags, rope and string. Litter can transport invasive species, or introduce dangerous toxins into an ecosystem. Plastic litter can break down into smaller pieces that are impossible to pick up and never truly disappear.

But, we can help! Aside from limiting our single-use plastics and disposing of waste properly, participating in a cleanup is the perfect way to make our shorelines beautiful once again.

Twice a year, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada participates in a shoreline cleanup to help clean Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Humber River. This area, known as the Humber Marshes, is one of the few remaining river mouth marshes in Toronto. As part of Toronto’s largest watershed, the extensive marshes provide an important breeding habitat for ducks, turtles and fish, and are a significant corridor for migratory song birds and monarch butterflies. More than 60 species of fish live in the river including such sport fish as trout, pike and salmon.

Over the course of the two-hour cleanup, 62 Aquarium staff and community volunteers collected over 86 kg (190 lbs.) of waste and recycling, including several large pieces of wood and a tire (rim included).

The worst offenders? Small pieces of foam and plastic, called micro-plastic.

Because of their tiny size, micro-plastics avoid filtration from city water systems and end up being flushed directly into our natural waterways.

BUT micro-plastics are not the only trash that end up on our shores. In 2016, these were the most collected items across Canada:

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a national conservation initiative that provides Canadians the opportunity to take action in their communities wherever water meets land, one bit of trash at a time. Since inception in 1994, there have been 19,400 cleanups that have collected more than 1.2 million kg (2.64 million lbs.) of trash across Canada’s shorelines. Today, the Shoreline Cleanup is recognized as one of the largest direct action conservation programs in Canada.

A BIG ‘tank’ you to everyone that participated! Stay tuned for our next cleanup in the fall.


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Marla is the Assistant Manager of Education and Conservation at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. Prior to joining the Aquarium team in September 2013, she worked in the Education department at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, Alaska. With a young daughter of her own, her passion lies in connecting others to our natural world, and teaching them to protect it for future generations.

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