Exploring Orpheus Island

Tangaroa Blue Foundation and a team of 13 dedicated volunteers set out from Lucinda towards Orpheus Island National Park from the 24th to 28th of April 2018, with a mission to relieve sections of the windward stretch of coast from the burden of discarded and forgotten marine debris.

The team traversed eastward over the island’s peak with anticipation to find the stony beaches coated in a rainbow of marine debris, but on arrival were surprised to find only 205kg on Fig Tree and Big Rock Bays when only six months ago these beaches were smothered by 690kg!

“It’s just amazing what 13 volunteers can accomplish in only a few days”, says volunteer David Coley. After the first two days Tangaroa Blue’s regular sites that have been targeted since 2014, had been cleaned and purified, providing an opportunity to expand our project to new sites around Orpheus Island.

Approaching the shores of our new site at Horseshoe Bay, you could see large colorful debris scattered along the beach from the water hundreds of meters away! This site itself contributed 817.5kg to the database that included a tinny, outboard motor, large plastic crates, drums and floats, processed timber, and rope. Household items, plastic bottle tops and plastic remnants were the top items discovered along the sandy shore, in addition to plastic bottles and foam packaging trapped in the vegetation well above the high tide.

In total, one ton of marine debris had been collected and audited for the Australian Marine Debris Initiative Database over just three days, where volunteer’s efforts extended to sorting out artist goods and recyclables as well loading the bags of rubbish onto Absolute North Charter’s barge for transportation to Lucinda. “Our priorities are not only to clean up, collect data and get rubbish off the island, but also to divert as much debris from landfill as possible into recycling and reusable items. We also prioritize identifying the sources of the different items washing in so we can ultimately put a stop to the flow of this rubbish into our oceans from their origins”, says project coordinator Vanessa Carey.

Marine debris is an ever persisting and always compounding product of human society, and for many first-time volunteers, this trip solidified an understanding of the need to reduce. “The problem of plastics in our oceans”, said by volunteers “was really driven home to me when I watched plastic bottles and fragments crumble into smaller pieces in front of my eyes as I tried to remove them!”

Plastics break up over time into ingestible sizes and becomes unavoidable to marine life – thus biomagnifying into our human food chain. Add to this, discarded fishing gear and floating rope nets, it’s clear that our consumption is fast becoming the demise of our oceans. Together we can all make a difference for the health of our saltwater country by shedding our single-use habits and transitioning to a waste-free lifestyle by making more environmentally conscious purchases and choosing plastic alternatives that are either reusable or better for the environment.

Tangaroa Blue is already discussing dates for the next clean up trip later this year, when we hope to continue expanding to various beaches around the island. Over the past couple years, the debris load returning to Lucinda has really intrigued and gained traction in the local community and amongst other organizations that are eager to partner up and assist in the rehabilitation of the Goolboddi Islands and surrounding marine environment.

You too can get on board with this worthy cause; find out how at www.tangaroablue.org

This event was part of the Devolved Community Landcare Grant supported by NQ Dry Tropics through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, with additional funding contributed by the Morris Group, owners of Orpheus Island Lodge. The event also acknowledges our partners, James Cook University’s Orpheus Island Research Station, Absolute North Charters, Port of Lucinda and Palm Island Barge who are involved in our Orpheus endeavors. Thank you to our Tangaroa Blue Foundation Coordinators Vanessa Carey and Jeff McDonald, and of course to our devoted clean-up crew helping care for our oceans.

Written by: Vanessa Carey (Project coordinator)

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