Return to Djulpan: The Miyapunu fight

Wednesday, 22 Nov, 2023

Our Sea Shepherd Australia remote marine debris team first conducted a clean-up mission at Djulpan in the Northern Territory in 2018. After four campaigns, this year’s crew managed to reach the end of Djulpan beach, successfully cleaning all 14 kilometres of beach!

Credit: Rebecca Griffiths

Perhaps the most powerful evidence of this impact was travelling back over the 14-kilometre beach to find it covered in turtle tracks and nests. This is how it should be, a safe habitat for precious marine life. This huge milestone was only possible thanks to our collaboration with the amazing Dhimurru Land and Sea Rangers who have been removing plastic pollution from their Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) for well over two decades. In total, our team have returned to Djulpan four times, with 45 volunteers working for over 3,500 hours to remove a staggering 42,400 kilograms of trash. The impact of this on marine life cannot be understated. Every piece counts, and the removal of this trash provides huge relief to local marine life. 

Sea Shepherd Australia crew and Dhimurru Land and Sea Ranges. Credit: Rebecca Griffiths

This year our 12 volunteers, together with the Dhimurru Land and Sea rangers, cleaned the full 14 kilometres of Djulpan removing an estimated 500,000+ pieces of plastic pollution weighing 12,756 kilograms. Included in this count, was 3,857 kilograms of ropes and nets that wouldn’t fit into our collection bags. 

Grahame Lloyd, Sea Shepherd Australia’s Remote Marine Debris Campaigner highlighted how important collaboration is to make an impact. 

“This is the most debris we have ever removed during our remote cleans, and it’s a perfect example of Dhimurru's motto " Ŋillimurru bukmak djäka waŋuwu, “all of us together looking after country.” For the first week we had up to nine rangers per day working alongside us which was a great experience for all involved.”

Grahame Lloyd, Remote Marine Debris Campaigner
Credit: Rebecca Griffiths
Credit: Rebecca Griffiths
Credit: Rebecca Griffiths
Credit: Rebecca Griffiths

This year, our crew also conducted two Coastal Surveys consisting of six transects for the CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere team for the first time at Djulpan. We will provide this invaluable data to CSIRO, for future research into the level of debris in these remote places. 

During the clean-up our teams were happy to find that the volume of trash was down from previous years, and there was evidence of increased turtle activity. This shows that by removing larger plastics and trash annually, we are greatly reducing the loading on the beaches in the long-term. 

During the second week our team were urged on and determined to finish cleaning the beach after witnessing two mother turtles returning to the ocean after laying their eggs on Djulpan's sacred shores. 

Sadly, our team also found five deceased turtles entangled in nets during our clean, highlighting that ghost nets are indiscriminate killing devices, that we must fight to keep out of our ocean. 

Credit: Rebecca Griffiths
Credit: Rebecca Griffiths

For our teams, these campaigns aren’t just about the clean-up, but also an opportunity to connect with the local community. 

We held a free community screening of the iconic documentary, "Chasing The Thunder" at Nhulunbuy Town hall, with 42 local community members in attendance. We discussed how IUU fishing relates to the plastic pollution and trash we are removing from Djulpan as well as the impact this has on the cultural practices of many remote communities.  

Remote Marine Debris Campaigner, Grahame Lloyd, also conducted five school talks across Nhulunbuy Primary and Nhulunbuy High School, engaging with students ranging from grades 5 to 12.  

“It’s always incredible to speak with students, and the next generation about the impact of plastic pollution, and the impact we can have working collaboratively. The students were so engaged and had such wonderful questions.”

Grahame Lloyd, Remote Marine Debris Campaigner

As always, our crew returned from campaign, heartened and empowered. Being able to work alongside the Dhimurru Rangers is hugely empowering, and seeing the impact our teams make is even better. 

We’ll be back next year to continue making an impact to protect these precious habitats for marine life. 

This campaign was funded as part of the Ghost Nets Innovative Solutions Grant from the Australia Government. 

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