18,000 pieces of plastic are estimated to float in every square kilometre of ocean.
633 species worldwide including 77 Australian species are impacted by marine debris.
Over 75% of what is removed from our beaches is made of plastic.
Tangaroa Blue Foundation is an Australian-wide not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the removal and prevention of marine debris, one of the major environmental issues worldwide. But if all we do is clean-up, that is all we will ever do.
To successfully solve the problem, the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) was created, an on-ground network of volunteers, communities and organisations that contribute data from rubbish collected during beach and river clean-up events to the AMDI Database, and then work on solutions to stop the flow of litter at the source. The AMDI helps communities look after their coastal environment by providing resources and support programs, and collaborates with industry and government to create change on a large scale.
In Maori and Polynesian mythology, Tangaroa is the god of the ocean. Tangaroa made laws to protect the ocean and its sea creatures "Tiaki mai i ahau, maku ano koe e tiaki"... If you look after me, then I will look after you..." When, after a week-long clean-up event, the whales and dolphins come close to our beach and slap their flippers, we sometimes wonder if it is Tangaroa saying "thank you".
Once again, the big oysters barge was of good use when eight tough Green Army volunteers and staff from the Gosford Council joined Clean4Shore to tackle muddy mangroves, bulky rubbish and a pile of bean bag balls that had to be cleaned up in the Empire Bay Wetlands in NSW.
What people dump there would be enough to fill a house: Amongst oyster products, poly pipes, lounge cushions, foam mattresses, timber stairs, a trampoline frame, water drums, deck chairs and countless tyres were removed from this worn down site - not to forget the pile of the before mentioned styrofoam balls that were probably the item with the highest possibility of getting mistaken for food and eaten by wild animals.
In total 1.4 tonnes of rubbish were hauled through knee deep water onto the barge to take back to the council truck. Clean-ups are a tricky undertaking when your activity is ruled by tides and the site tricky to access. Great effort by the crew to not shy away from these obstacles and make removing the rubbish a priority!
Regular monitoring is a key to understanding the trend of marine debris over time. One of our two monitoring sites in north QLD is Cape Kimberley, a 3 km beach that Tangaroa Blue have been cleaning quarterly for the last 5 years, usually collecting between 200 - 300 kg every time.
The clean-up in late January also marked our first event of the year and broke some records straight away: A whooping 34 volunteers turned up, many of them new to Tangaroa Blue. It was awesome to welcome so many first timers. Even more whooping (making this turn up even more astounding) was the heat: 30 degrees in the shade. It felt that for every kg of rubbish that the team recorded they had to down the contents of a drink bottle to stay upright. Hypothetically, this would equal 276 bottles emptied and refilled. Without the rangers from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) providing quad bikes to transport the full bags along the beach it would have been even more of a mission.
The Thamarrurr Rangers who live in Wadeye, several hundred kilometres west of Darwin NT, have been working to collect, document and prevent marine debris and litter in their community as part of their work looking after country.
This year they have been instramental in creating a recycling project for the community to help reduce litter and divert recyclable items from local landfill.
This week the first load of recyclables has headed back to Darwin! Photo: Thamarrurr Ranger Mary at the recycling area.
To help out volunteers around the country Tangaroa Blue Foundation has joined forces with the WA State NRM Office and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to create a series of 5 educational videos on marine debris and how to get involved in the Australian Marine Debris Initiative.
If you are keen to run your own beach / river clean-ups check out this video for hints and tips on how to make it fun and do it safely.
A huge thank you to all the stars of the video, to Christian Miller - our amazing photographer and editor and to the WA State NRM Office and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for funding this program.
Video 1 - What is marine debris?