Collaborating to Clean-up Beaches

Friday, 12 Feb, 2021

A collaboration between Sea Shepherd and Blue Peter Sailing School allowed volunteers to access and clean remote beaches off the coast of Queensland.

Sea Shepherd volunteers joined with the crew at Blue Peter to survey and clean up less-accessible islands off the coast of Brisbane. The combined team collected and removed 390 kilograms of debris from the remote islands over two days, and discovered the bodies of a young Green turtle and cormorant killed by crab pots.

Coochiemudlo, Teerk Roo Ra National Park (Peel Island), and Goat Island are within the Moreton Bay region, and are accessible only by boat. Blue Peter Sailing School transported 15 Sea Shepherd volunteers over five sailing vessels, leaving from Cleveland, Brisbane, in a national first Sea Shepherd Australia and sailing school collaboration.

The Quandamooka people have Native Title over land and waters of Teerk Roo Ra, “the place of many shells.” The island stretches over 519 hectares, and is home to precious dugongs, dolphins, sharks, wallabies, and 74 species of birds. As a conservation park, protection of the land and its native flora and fauna is fundamental to a healthy and thriving ecosystem. With no bins on the island, the public are encouraged to take all rubbish back to the mainland.

Of the debris collected by the team, 95% came from Teerk Roo Ra, 4% from Coochiemudlo, and 1% from Goat Island. The crews cleaned and surveyed several locations on each island, covering northern, southern and eastern sides of Coochiemudlo including the wetlands, the northern and eastern beaches of Teerk Roo Ra including the popular Horseshoe Bay, and north, east, south and western parts of Goat Island.

Among the rubbish, the crews noted a disturbing prevalence of polystyrene, crab pots and abandoned fishing gear, plastic food wrappers, glass, and aluminium cans. In many cases, the debris was so weathered it was difficult to identify the brand. In the instances of cans, dates were able to be identified back until the 1980s.

Campaign Coordinator, Grahame Lloyd said plastic debris is especially menacing to marine life.

“Soft plastic is often mistaken as food by our marine friends, which can kill them. The consumption of soft plastics by turtles can result in float syndrome, where a turtle is unable to dive underwater because of the buoyancy caused by plastic. This increases the risk of boat strike, death from long exposure to the sun or by starvation. It can also cause a slow and painful death to whales and fish alike by blocking their digestive system.”

Grahame said the fishing gear is an ongoing problem in the region, which Sea Shepherd crew are regularly finding abandoned or discarded.

“We have seen first-hand the fatal impact of crab pots on animals at both Mulgumpin and now at Teerk Roo Ra. There needs to be better control and enforcement of the use of these types of devices if they are to continue to be used."

“Discarded fishing gear is not only lethal to our marine life but also dangerous to our children who may be injured or entangled. Crab pots and fishing equipment are often fitted with large and sometimes rusty hooks, which can cause nasty injuries at the beach.”

- Grahame Lloyd, Queensland Marine Debris Campaign Coordinator

With the help of our friends at Blue Peter, we were able to access and assess remote parts of the coastline we weren’t able to get to before. Sea Shepherd would like to thank Jono and Yona, Danni, Eva, Tammy, Emma, Seanna, and Brendon for their hospitality, knowledge-sharing, and engagement.

Australia has a plastic problem. Since 2016, Sea Shepherd Australia’s Marine Debris Campaign has been committed to cleaning up waterways and beaches.

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