Mapoon 2024: unshakeable resolve and camaraderie in monsoonal conditions

Wednesday, 10 Apr, 2024

Nestled on the Queensland side of the Gulf of Carpentaria lies Mapoon – a biodiversity hotspot of the Tjungundji people, rich with marine and land-based life.

Under the stewardship of the Mapoon Land and Sea Rangers, these lands have been safeguarded since 1989. However, this pristine ecosystem is under constant overwhelming threat from marine debris. That’s why, thanks to the support of the LUSH Hand Made Cosmetics charity pot grant*, Sea Shepherd Australia teamed up with the Mapoon Land and Sea Rangers and Grassland Films in March to tackle this problem head on. 

A diverse team of volunteers, rangers, filmmakers, and environmentalists embarked on this mission to Skardon beach, driven by a shared commitment to safeguarding our oceans and coastal ecosystems. Joined by the Nanum Wungthim Land and Sea Rangers, the crew braved monsoonal rain and rough seas, tirelessly scouring the coastline for traces of plastic pollution to remove. 

Severe weather conditions forced the crew to adapt, relocating operations to Back Beach to mitigate risks to crew safety. Yet, amidst the adversity, camaraderie flourished, as the crew stood united in their shared quest to protect our oceans. Each day, the crew’s efforts yielded tangible results, with hundreds of bags of marine debris extracted from Skardon and Back Beach. Despite encountering distressing scenes of marine life entangled in plastic waste, the crew’s resolve remained unwavering.

What remains of a turtle entangled in discarded netting. Photo Grassland Films

These remote cleans are about more than just pulling the debris off our shores. Through meticulous sampling and transect surveys on location, Sea Shepherd Australia’s continued collaboration with the CSIRO and UNSW Smart Centre enables research into the long-term effects of marine plastics and potential solutions - allowing us to comprehensively understand the extent of coastal contamination. 

Over 94% of the collected items from Skardon and Back beach were plastic. Sand samples collected for analysis also revealed the presence of microplastics, underscoring the pervasive nature of this ecological crisis. It is evident to all those on the ground that to stem the tide of plastic pollution in our marine ecosystems, systemic changes need to occur in tandem with our remote debris clean-ups. 

Photo Grassland Films

Together, the Mapoon crew demonstrated the transformative power of collective action, underscoring the urgent need for concerted efforts to combat marine plastics. In the face of adversity, Sea Shepherd Australia’s resolve remains unshakeable, as we continue our direct action and boots-on-the-ground approach to safeguarding our oceans for generations to come. 

Stay tuned for a documentary about this journey from Grassland Films, to be released later this year. 

The crew face monsoonal conditions on Skardon Beach. Photo Grassland Films

* Proudly supported by LUSH Hand Made Cosmetics charity pot grant.
Charity pot grants provide targeted funding to groups working in the areas of animal protection, human rights, and the environment. 

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