News

Half a tonne of trash cleared from Moreton Island

Tuesday, Sep 29, 2020

Sea Shepherd Australia’s Marine Debris Campaign returned to remote shores of Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) to conduct the second annual beach clean of the area.

The group of ten volunteers cleared 576kg of trash over three days, and witnessed first-hand the devastating impact pollution is having on the island’s resident turtle and seabird population. 

Mulgumpin means “place of sandhills” to the Ngugi people of Quandamooka country. Stretching 37km long, the island lies 40km off the coast of Queensland. It is home to a variety of endemic, rare, and protected wildlife, including dugongs, dolphins, turtles, terrestrial mammals and over 180 species of seabirds.

The crew surveyed and cleaned several locations on the eastern and western shores, including Rous Battery, Toulkerrie Track, Kooringal and Bulwer Beach, and collected brand and plastic data as part of a global polluters brand audit. Most of the items were of Australian origin, likely taken by the currents off the mainland. 

View image gallery from the Mulgumpin clean-up:

Volunteers arrive at Mulgumpin (Moreton Island). Located just off the coast in Southeastern Queensland, Mulgumpin the third largest sand island in the world.
Sea Shepherd's volunteer crew cleaning up Mulgumpin's beaches
A volunteer cleaning up trash on the beach at Mulgumpin
Volunteers noted an alarming prevalence of fishing gear, including washed-up crab pots, tackle and bait bags, lures and fishing line.
A dead cormorant heavily entangled in fishing line. Fishing gear and plastic debris is severely impacting Mulgumpin’s wildlife.
Plastic trash found on the island
Plastic found in the dunes of the beach clean-up.
Volunteers sorting and counting trash from the clean-up
Sea Shepherd volunteers with the collected trash
576kg of trash was removed from the beaches of Mulgumpin

Among the debris, volunteers noted an alarming prevalence of fishing gear, including washed-up crab pots, tackle and bait bags, lures and fishing line. Campaign Coordinator Grahame Lloyd said the amount of fishing-related debris he and his team recovered was disturbing. 

“I was astounded by the amount of fishing gear we found,” he said. “Compared to previous clean ups, there was an abundance of plastic bait bags, many from a local distributor. We removed a massive amount of fishing line which poses a major threat to native animals.” 

In confirmation of their fears, the crew uncovered a body of a cormorant heavily entangled in fishing line, with a sinker and hook. Fishing gear and plastic debris is severely impacting Mulgumpin’s wildlife.

The volunteers discovered the body of a cormorant heavily entangled in fishing line with a sinker and hook.

Other items collected from the shores and mangroves included car parts and tyres, Expo-88 XXX beer cans, shopping bags, balloon remnants, glow sticks, and food wrappers. The degradation of hard plastics was so severe in some cases, that bottle caps crumbled in the hands of volunteers. Grahame said plastics pose a major concern throughout their entire lifecycle.

Campaign Coordinator Grahame Lloyd sorting trash found on Moreton Island.

“We collected a multitude of plastic bags and bottle caps from the mangroves on the Eastern side of the island, each of which can take over a decade to break up into microplastics. Imagine the damage one discarded plastic bag can do floating around the oceans for 10 years. Seeing the plastic littered around a pristine location like Mulgumpin reminds me how bad the plastic problem is.”

- Grahame Lloyd, Moreton Island Campaign Coordinator

The Queensland Government describes Mulgumpin as having “complex and fragile ecology” with a “pristine environment” that “supports some interesting and valuable species.” Despite this, plastic pollution plagues the island, and threatens all of its inhabitants. The Moreton Bay Marine Park is an important natural, cultural and recreational area for Queensland. Loved by many and valued for its educational and commercial value, the Mulgumpin and the Moreton Bay Marine Park must be protected. 

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

Get involved by joining a Sea Shepherd Marine Debris Campaign clean-up near you! 

Find out more via our dedicated Marine Debris Campaign Facebook and Instagram pages.

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Sea Shepherd pays respect to the traditional custodians of Quandamooka country past, present and emerging. We work together in partnership with park rangers and the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation during our clean-ups of Mulgumpin.

Article written by Marine Debris Campaign volunteer Kimberley Bernard. 

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