As part of the Far North Queensland Marine Debris Project an Island Clean Up was held on May 17th, 2009 on three islands: Heritage Listed Low Isles, Woody Island and Snapper Island all located in Queensland just off Port Douglas. 28 volunteers went to Low Isles and Woody Island and 16 volunteers went to Snapper Island for the clean up which was organised by Tangaroa Blue Foundation and The Low Isles Preservation Society. Funding for the event was provided by the QLD Government through a Natural Resource Awareness Grant.
The volunteers that went out to Snapper Island brought back over 25 bags full of rubbish and some larger items including 2 tyres that wouldn’t fit in bags. About 2/3 of the island was cleaned up. The most obscure items included a sharps container full of syringes, a motorcycle helmet, pool noodles and a toilet seat. Also collected from Snapper Island were 267 plastic drink bottles, 56 aluminium cans, 40 shoes and 354 pieces of polystyrene foam. The total number of items collected from Snapper Island was 1252 items, weighing 136kg. Photo right: Cassie Senner, Alan Crabtree and Deb Eastop with a boat load of debris on Snapper Island.
The volunteers that went out to Low Isles and Woody Island collected over 21 bags of debris, the majority of which was found on the windward side of Woody Island. The most common items found on Woody Island were 71 plastic drink bottles, 113 lids/bottle tops, 50 cigarette butts, 481 pieces of plastic, 55 shoes, more than 200m of rope and 140 pieces of polystyrene foam. A total of 1344 pieces of debris were removed from Woody Island and 143 from Low Isles weighing more than 100kg.
After the clean ups BBQs were held for volunteers on both islands and some volunteers spent time snorkeling and enjoying the newly cleaned marine environment before boats transported them back to Port Douglas.
The clean up has coincided with presentations being conducted at Port Douglas State School and Mossman Primary School, explaining what marine debris is and its impacts on marine life to local students, with 10 students from Port Douglas State School and their teacher Leigh Dunn seeing the marine debris first hand as they helped out at the clean up on Low Isles and Woody Island.
Organiser Heidi Taylor from Tangaroa Blue said: “We were really happy with the turn-out of volunteers and support from the local community in getting involved with this clean up. The amount of debris collected really shows that areas of our coast that are not heavily used are still impacted by marine debris. It also highlights the need for everyone to be proactive in reducing marine debris by putting their rubbish in bins, not leaving rubbish on our beaches, rivers and coastline and securing items when they are on boats to prevent things from blowing overboard. Everyone can make a difference and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to keep our oceans clean and healthy.”
We would like to thank all the volunteers who participated in the clean up, as well Keep Australia Beautiful QLD, Reefsprinter, Ragamuffin III, Poseidon, Quicksilver, Cairns Regional Council and the Port Douglas Coast Guard who all assisted with logistics and support.
The amount of debris collected highlights the need for both of these islands to be cleaned up on a regular basis and further research done to try and identify the sources of the rubbish found with an aim to reduce the amount of marine debris ending up on the islands in the first place. With over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals being killed each year by marine debris this problem will continue to grow with the high use of single-use plastic products and people not disposing of litter in a responsible way.