Tangaroa Blue volunteers had been trying to get out to Woody Island twice over the last few months but had to postpone twice due to strong winds, and with the upcoming closure of the island for the migrating pigeons coming fast on September 1st, we were running out of weekends, so fingers were crossed that 24th August was going to bring calm weather. The day started with volunteers meeting at the Port Douglas Coast Guard at 8am for a safety briefing and trip out to Low Isles and Woody Island for the annual clean up day. The 30 volunteers split up into teams for the trip out to the islands, and a few people were thinking about the glassy and flat conditions last week as we got more than a little wet with the increased winds and swell on the ride over.
But everyone arrived safely and were transferred over to Woody Island where the main clean up event was taking place. The coral/sandy sections of the island were covered by foot, and the mangrove sections covered by paddle boards and boats. After just a few hours the mound of rubbish was starting to pile up as everything was sorted and counted for submission into the Australian Marine Debris Database.
Reef Check Australia were also participating in the event and had five divers collecting rubbish underwater at Low Isles. Splitting up into two teams, they worked their way around the moorings picking up anything from plastic cups, to water logged cameras and snorkeling gear that were buried under the sand. Dive conditions were amazing, with great visibility and little to no swell or current. In the midst of all the rubbish-collecting excitement, the volunteers almost swam past a massive sleeping green turtle. It was a beautiful dive, and they had a great time enjoying the reef, and helping the cause!
By lunchtime everyone was hungry and headed back to Low Isles, were the caretakers Jenni and Wayne had the BBQ fired up! Thanks to Malone's Butchery for the very yummy sausages!! Volunteers had a bit of time for a snorkel and relax in the sun before the boats headed back to Port Douglas mid-afternoon.
Total debris collected was 215kg filling over 25 bags! Most common items were 669 bits of broken hard plastic, 260 plastic lids and bottletops, 216 pieces of foam, 163 pieces of weather balloon and 133 plastic drink bottles. Last year during the clean up event over 637kg was collected, so it was awesome to see such a decrease in the amount of debris recovered at Woody Island this year!
A big thank you to all the volunteers involved as well as Reef Check Australia, Low Isles Preservation Society, Low Isles Caretakers, Windswell, OutnAbout, Wavedancer, Malone's Butchery, Poseidon, Cairns Regional Council and Everyone's Environment Grant.