10 isolated coral and sand cays out in the middle of the Coral Sea were the destination of a unique voyage to survey marine debris and biodiversity by scientists and researchers.
Funded by Parks Australia and Bush Blitz, the 12 day trip also included three NGOs including Tangaroa Blue, and provided a unique opportunity to remove debris and collect data from some of the most remote locations we’ve ever been to!
After 30hrs travelling approximately 400km in rough seas on the “Iron Joy”, the team finally reached the first island, which was a relief to those suffering from sea sickness! But what was not a relief was the high levels of marine debris that needed to be recorded and removed! Surprising amounts of commerical fishing gear including floats, mooring ropes and thousands of plastic drink bottles, as well as more unique items such as a toy piano, a car tyre on a rim, 2 packets of Chinese cigarettes, 2 silver canisters and a football.
Of concern was the number of plastic items that had been used by the seabirds for their nests. Toothbrushes, pens, the foil inside of plastic lids, rope fibres, and foam bottle protectors were all used as nesting materials.
In total, more than 2 tonnes of marine debris were removed from the islands and recorded to input into the AMDI Database. The debris was brought back to Cairns, were Tangaroa Blue assisted in recycling whatever we could.
Tangaroa Blue crew member, Matt Wheldon said “That far out to sea, the ocean was spectacularly clear, and diverse seabird life with populations in the thousands was seen, with birds who weren’t scared of humans.”
“The daily routine of getting up at 5.45am, and heading out in the wind and wet conditions to carry heavy debris over rocky shores was arduous and hard work, but there was an awesome sense of achievement looking back at each island and leaving it pristine.”
Some islands showed signs of being absolutely smashed by extreme weather events. On one island, the Coringa-Hearald National Nature Reserve sign had been totally mangled and was lying flat on the ground after being hit by a massive wave or wind.
It was a great adventure and a wonderful opportunity for Tangaroa Blue to be invited to participate. We look forward to joining additional clean-ups out to the Coral Sea in the future!