Sea Shepherd's Remote Beach Clean-ups in Arnhem Land

Untrashing Djulpan

Since 2018, Sea Shepherd and the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation of Northeast Arnhem Land have joined forces each October to clean Djulpan, a sacred and remote 14km stretch of beach in the Northern Territory that is an important nesting ground for turtles.

 

 

"Ŋilmurru bukmak djäka wäŋawu” - All of us together, looking after country.

In 2018 and 2019, our volunteer Sea Shepherd crew travelled to Djulpan for our onshore marine debris campaign with Rangers from the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation.

 

Together we aspire to remove as much plastic pollution as possible and bring immediate relief to the area, making the coastline safer for all marine life.

 

About Djulpan

Djulpan is a 14km remote beach on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Far from any town or city, it is a culturally significant place for the Yolngu people.

 

Six of the seven species of marine turtles which are all listed as ‘Vulnerable’ or ‘Endangered’ under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act can routinely be found on this stretch of the Gulf. Djulpan is fortunate to host marine turtles during their nesting season along the Arnhem Land coast, but this is also when they are most susceptible to entanglement from marine debris. 

Dhimurru Rangers

Djulpan is one of the beaches that falls under the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation’s Indigenous Protected Area. This area includes around 71 km of rugged, beautiful and remote coastline.

 

The Dhimurru Rangers work tirelessly to care for their country on behalf of the Yolŋgu traditional owners but increasingly are overwhelmed by the quantity of plastic pollution washing up on their cultural homelands. 

 

The area on the western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria accumulates plastic pollution at an alarming rate. Along the coast, trash is swept onto these remote beaches which increases towards the end of the SE trade wind season. 

 

For well over a decade, plastic has been flooding onto the coastline with no end in sight, and each year ever-increasing quantities are recorded.

“The marine debris littering our beaches saddens us. Not only is it killing our turtles and other marine life, it also pollutes some of our sacred areas. The rangers work hard to try and keep the beaches clean, but we need to stop the rubbish going into the ocean in the first place.” - Managing Director of the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation Mandaka Marika.

Untrashing Djulpan 2018

In 2018, over seven tonnes of marine plastic pollution was removed by ten volunteers from Sea Shepherd Australia and Indigenous Rangers from the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation in the inaugural two-week-long collaboration at Djulpan Beach in the Northern Territory.

 

The volume and density of plastic pollution removed from Djulpan was at a scale that the Sea Shepherd volunteers had not seen before on a mainland Australian beach, despite having facilitated over 680 clean-ups in the past three years.

 

Around 4.5 tonnes of the debris removed were consumer items including in many cases, the plastic items were so degraded that when volunteers went to pick them up, they crumbled into plastic dust. The remaining 2.5 tonnes was made up of 72 different types of discarded fishing nets or ghost nets, some of which contained turtle bones.

 

Read More about the 2018 Djulpan clean-up

 

Watch 'Untrashing Djulpan': The Documentary

Watch Sea Shepherd Australia's documentary 'Untrashing Djulpan' which details our inaugural collaboration with the Dhimurru indigenous rangers of North-East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory filmed during the 2018 remote marine debris clean-up.

Watch now

2019 Arnhem Clean-Up Campaign

When the Sea Shepherd crew and Rangers returned to Djulpan in 2019, they were more determined than ever to free the sacred shoreline of trash.

 

Despite the heat and long days together they removed over a tonne of debris a day. In total, 12.1 tonnes of debris was recorded including consumer plastics and large fishing nets from 8.5 kilometres of beach. This surpassed the previous year’s achievement of 7.1 tonnes from 4 kilometre of beach. The crew and Rangers also removed 86 nets of differing sizes and types.

 

Just under 75% of the rubbish was made up of household, fishing and consumer items consisting of polystyrene, drink bottles, toothbrushes, medical waste, hard plastic pieces, plastic film, thongs and rubber pieces, bottle caps, food packaging, pharmaceutical packaging, personal care items, oil bottles, household plastic items, rope scraps, squid jiggers, floats and buoys. 

 

On many of the containers and personal care packaging recycling symbols were clearly shown which demonstrates that a product may be recyclable but is not being collected and processed. Fishing nets made up 25% of the weight of the debris removed. 

 

Read more about the 2019 Djulpan clean-up

View our photo slideshow from the 2018 & 2019 Arnhem clean-ups

Turtles Return

The volunteers were amazed to see a noticeable increase in turtles tracks across the first 4km of beach that had been previously cleaned. The tracks were so numerous there was hardly any sections of the sandy beach that did not have turtle tracks and each day fresh tracks were seen. 

 

Sadly, whilst cleaning up the beach the crew came across a number of dead turtles including a turtle hatchling trapped in a plastic container and turtles found entangled in fishing nets. 

 

At Djulpan, evidence of marine life biting the plastic was consistently seen with bite marks from turtles and fish on many types of plastic packaging but notably most bites were found on either food or personal care items. 

 

This shows the devastating impact and consequences that plastic is having on wildlife.

Seeing so many turtle nests on the areas of Djulpan cleaned the previous year demonstrates how important beach clean-ups are for protecting and conserving marine species. 

Scientific Surveys

Scientific data collection surveys have been carried out at 13 sites along the Dhimurru Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) to gain a better insight into the density of marine debris as well as the type and size of the debris accumulation along the coast.  

 

These surveys included protocols that sample to a depth of 10 cms and the data collection is presently being peer reviewed by Dr Jennifer Lavers from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania. 

 

In 2018, the results from the scientific data survey revealed there was an estimated 250 million pieces of debris along the 14km beach. 

 

Nearly all of the plastic appears to be derived from some part of Asia which clearly demonstrates we must work outside of Australia’s borders in collaboration with neighbouring countries to stem the tide of plastic pollution affecting remote Australian coastlines.

If you would like access to our marine debris data from Djulpan clean-ups, please email ssmarinedebris@seashepherd.org.au

Sea Shepherd and Dhimurru are working together for the good of the oceans with their partnership becoming stronger and the outcomes greater. 

About our Marine Debris Campaign

Our Sea Shepherd Australia Marine Debris Campaign is committed to promoting and facilitating family-friendly coastal and river clean-up activities and inspiring the community, businesses and industry to take action in support of the protection and conservation of local marine environments. 

 

Our passionate volunteers have removed over 3 million pieces of trash, preventing these items from polluting our oceans and harming marine life.   

Learn more