The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is home to a very special Christmas tree this holiday season. Located in the lower Teck Engagement Gallery, the unique holiday tree is made exclusively from items found on a beach by West Coast marine debris artist Pete Clarkson.

Marine debris Christmas tree

Introducing a unique Christmas tree this holiday season contructed by artist Pete Clarkson.

“The daily debris delivered by the tide never ceases to amaze me,” said Pete. “This tree encourages visitors to consider the vast quantity of marine debris in our oceans, and to think about reducing, reusing and recycling this holiday season.”

Pete is a frequent beachcomber in Tofino, where he works for Parks Canada in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. He has been collecting interesting items and making fascinating art pieces for more than 13 years. He presents items as they are found on the beach with little modification. For this project, Pete was helped by his 17-year-old son Jesse, whose objective for the tree was “to bring more colour into the world.”

“We need folks to champion the cause of recycling plastic,” Pete added. “There is great value in the stuff we throw away and it only takes a shift in perception to make a difference.”

From the green net “tree,” to the strings of fishing floats, to the toys hanging from the branches, all the components of this tree were found on west coast shorelines.

The fishing buoy “gifts” at the base of the Christmas tree have had a particularly long journey. Some of the buoys were likely attached to fishing equipment on the other side of the Pacific Ocean before being accidentally detached and set adrift. After floating across the ocean for months or even years, the buoys were washed up by waves and tides onto beaches along the West Coast Trail.

Marine Debris Tree Ornaments

Items from rubber ducks to drift cards adorn the marine debris tree.

In September 2014, participants in the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, removed more than four tons of marine debris from the rugged West Coast Trail, including 850 fishing buoys of varying sizes and shapes. The buoys were then removed by helicopter and transported by truck along a logging road before making their way back to the Vancouver Aquarium.

“I love seeing how Pete has incorporated the items we picked up into his beautiful design,” said Kate Le Souef, tsunami debris cleanup coordinator with the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. “It’s great to see this marine debris making an impact with guests this holiday season.”

This timelapse video shows the making of the marine debris tree as it comes together at the Aquarium:


Guests of the Vancouver Aquarium can view the tree daily during regular hours this holiday season which runs from November 27 through to January 4, 2015. A full list of holiday programming and shows can be found online.

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