Over 5 Tonnes of Plastic Pollution Removed from the Flood-affected Beaches of mulgumpin/Moreton Island

Monday, 07 Mar, 2022

Over 5 tonnes of trash has been removed from the beaches of Mulgumpin/Moreton Island during a Sea Shepherd community clean-up after the island’s coastline was inundated with plastic debris as a result of the mass flooding across South-East Queensland.

More than 100 people (including 20 Sea Shepherd volunteers) joined together in the clean-up effort at Tangalooma Island Resort on the western shore of the island on Sunday.

"Working hand-in-hand, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services Rangers, Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation Land and Sea Rangers, local residents, Tangalooma Island resort staff and guests, and Sea Shepherd volunteers removed a whopping 5 tonnes of marine plastic from the shoreline of mulgumpin."

- Grahame Lloyd, Sea Shepherd Australia’s Remote Marine Debris Campaigner

"During this difficult time for South-East Queensland, I am heartened to see how the community can come together.”

Volunteers cleaning the beach at mulgumpin/Moreton Island. Photo: Tammy Omodei.

During the clean-up, volunteers saw styrofoam littered across the length of the coastline with the majority of this coming from damaged pontoons. When left in the marine environment, this styrofoam is estimated to take over 500 years to break down.

The destruction caused by these floods has far-reaching effects for humans, marine life and our precious environment. 

Mr Lloyd said, “The sight of the pontoons on the beach left us in awe of the power of nature, and to see a set of concrete stairs which must have weighed easily over a tonne was just staggering. Seeing styrofoam that has broken off from the pontoons and was covering the beach like snow made me realise that we need to work together to come up with new options for these outdated plastic products and better design of all plastic products."

Pontoons along the beach. Photo: Britt Bentley.

"The damage caused by these huge weather events is already beyond measure, and the danger caused by these plastic products ending up in our ocean just adds another level to this destruction.”

- Grahame Lloyd, Sea Shepherd Australia’s Remote Marine Debris Campaigner
Sea Shepherd volunteers at the clean-up. Photo: Britt Bentley.

Mulgumpin means “place of sandhills” to the Ngugi people of Quandamooka country. Stretching 37km long, the island lies 40km off the coast of Queensland and is described by the Queensland Government as having a “complex and fragile ecology” with a “relatively pristine environment”. The waters around Mulgumpin are home to a variety of endemic, rare and protected wildlife, including dugongs, dolphins, turtles, terrestrial mammals and over 180 species of seabirds.

During the clean-up, Mr Lloyd noted concerning impacts for marine life as a result of the prevalence of debris in the water, saying “the notable absence of marine life in the normally thriving Moreton Bay Marine Park was a chilling reminder of the damage the hidden effects that these events have on marine life.” 

The latest major assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that Australia will increasingly face more catastrophic storms and floods as global heating continues. This warning from scientists means that in addition to human suffering, there will be more cascading environmental effects like that witnessed on Mulgumpin.

Dr Paul Read, Sea Shepherd Australia’s National Marine Debris Campaigner, watched in awe as volunteers led the clean-up. 

"This catrastophic flooding event underlines the time for action is now. The source of both plastics and carbon emissions are from the fossil fuel industry. We must transition to renewables to reduce our carbon footprint and at the same time stop the tide of plastic from destroying marine ecologies and polluting our life support system. Thankfully, the efforts of volunteers were fully vindicated this week when the United Nations agreed to a binding international agreement against plastic pollution due to be enacted by 2024."

“We look forward to the time when will we no longer need to be on the beaches cleaning up the pollution created by the plastics industry."

- Dr Paul Read, Sea Shepherd Australia’s National Marine Debris Campaigner

See images from the clean-up:

Over 5 tonnes of marine plastic pollution was removed from the island's coastline. Photo: Britt Bentley.
Some of the larger pieces of debris found during the clean-up. Photo: Britt Bentley.
A dead pufferfish found amongst debris. Photo: Britt Bentley.
Styrofoam littered the beach. Photo: Britt Bentley.
Volunteers work alongside Tangalooma Island Resort staff to clean the beach. Photo: Britt Bentley.
Netting found during the clean-up. Photo: Britt Bentley.


Learn more about Sea Shepherd Australia's Marine Debris Campaign and how YOU can help #StemTheTide of marine plastic pollution. 


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