Human foot washed up in Victoria ‘unsurprising,’ experts say

For the 16th time since 2007, a foot has washed up along the shores of B.C., according to the Coroners Service. Sarah Chew hears from experts about why this keeps happening.

The B.C.’s Coroner Service has confirmed another human foot has washed up on the province’s coastline.

Found in July on Gonzales Beach in Victoria, it’s the 16th foot to be found on the coast since 2007.

Gail Anderson, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University, said she’s not surprised another foot has been found because B.C.’s waters are so popular with swimmers and boaters.

A boat drifts in the water off shore

The 16th foot to wash up on B.C.’s shores since 2007 was found on Gonzales Beach in Victoria. (CityNews image)

In 2011, a left foot was found in Vancouver’s False Creek. In 2012, its right partner surfaced. Both of these feet were wearing sneakers — that’s something worth noting, Anderson said.

“All the feet, if you’ve noticed, have washed up in running shoes – they’re not washing up in flip-flops, or stilettos, they’re in running shoes,” she said.

This indicates to her that the people these feet belong to weren’t going for a swim or a paddle.

“I think most of these people are people who have fallen off a boat, jumped off a bridge, gone into the water that way,” she said.

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The 15 feet that have washed up on B.C.’s shores in the past have all belonged to people who went missing as far back as 1985.

The RCMP says they don’t suspect foul play and that the feet naturally detached from the body while decomposing.

Anderson, who’s studied how pig carcasses decompose in the Salish Sea, says that makes sense.

“We have shown that a body in the Strait of Georgia area in the Salish Sea can be completely skeletonized within three to four days depending on the season and the depth.”

pebbles on the shore

A 16th foot was found on B.C.’s shores in July. (CityNews image)

Juan Jose Alava, an honorary research associate at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, says the running shoes these feet are found in are buoyant, and play a role in preserving the remains from scavenging sea creatures.

“They will eat all the body that is available, but what happens with the foot of a person that has a sneaker or tennis or running shoes, that’s a floating device,” he said. “Once it’s detached from the body, it will surface and float.”

Alava told CityNews he’s heard of shoes with human remains washing up in other coastal cities as well, and it speaks to how plastic pollution remains in the oceans.

The B.C. Coroner’s Service is now investigating the foot found in Victoria, and while it’s the first reported to the Coroner’s Service since 2018, the experts say it won’t be the last.

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