Beach Combing Cape York Style

Report by Tangaroa Blue Crew Member Vanessa Carey.

The road to Cape York was red dirt against a bright blue sky, heading northbound to Chilli Beach for a five-day clean-up event within the Iron Range (Kutini-Payamu) National Park. On our arrival the location was welcoming but the weather displayed an unhappiness. The skies were grey of clouds filled with rain, the wind constantly roared and the waves never stopped. Perhaps it was Tangaroa’s (the god of the ocean) reaction to the marine debris scattered across the beach, vulnerable to being swept back out to sea.

The morning of July 10th, volunteers started their week’s mission in clearing the 2.23 tonnes of marine debris that suffocated 6km of the beautiful Chilli Beach. Once the 265.5 bags were weighed, each bag was emptied to be hand sorted by volunteers into ‘similar material’ categories. Each day after a reviving lunch they continued, counting a mind-numbing total of 73,630 items that were removed from the beach, including those pesky micro-plastics!

The first full clean-up of the entire length of Chilli Beach was conducted in 2012, collecting over 5.5 tonnes of marine debris, but relieving to see in the Australian Marine Debris Database, a decline over the years by over a half! The team of 80 volunteers contributed 715 hours and conquered their mission in just four days.

For two days, the students from Lockhart River joined the event and helped clean-up over 1km, as well as taught how to use the CyberTracker units to input data on the marine debris they collected earlier that day. The safety and future of our oceans will rest in this generation’s capable hands, knowledgeable minds and caring hearts.

A big thank you to everyone involved including the Tangaroa Blue Foundation staff and volunteers, Conservation Volunteers Australia, QLD Parks and Wildlife Rangers, Kuuku Ya’u Land Trust Rangers as well as teachers and children, years 1 – 5 from Lockhart River State School. Before the core group started the two-day trip south bound, the last day off at Chilli was granted with blue skies and shinning sun rays, and we wondered if it is Tangaroa saying “thank you”.

This event was funded by the Queensland Government’s Everyone’s Environment Grant.

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