Reduction of Marine Debris Destruction at Orpheus Island

A team of 14 ambitious volunteers with the Orpheus Clean-Up Project combed the shores of Orpheus Island from July 9 to July 11, collecting up to 850 kilograms of rubbish and plastic pollutants from two sites — Fig Tree and Big Rock Bays. Both beaches face exposed to the open ocean waves carrying in tons of man-made pollutants.

The team collected 383kg of plastic consumer, packaging and fishing items, as well as 16,000+ remnants. An additional 77kg of rope and net strikes on irresponsible fishing practices. A total of 400 pieces of foam accounted for 6kg of the overall weight, with rubber items including footwear, toys, tyres and remnants equating to 215kg, and metal items weighing in at 50 kilograms.

After just three days, 78 Tangaroa Blue clean-up bags were filled along with excess large plastics, wood and rope. Though majority was discovered as local Australian discards, a collection of 43 plastic bottles and packaging came from the Northern Asian waters. In July 2014, twelve volunteers undertook the task of cleaning Fig Tree Bay for the first time, collecting a total of 630 kilograms. This year’s collection of 345kg at Fig Tree Bay has nearly halved that of last year’s, leaving the beach purified to its natural state, free from debris!

For decades man has always viewed the ocean as an infinite space, capable to capacitate masses of pollution. (1) Presently, six million tons of rubbish fill the world’s oceans annually, either returning back to land or beginning their circulation with currents and gyres around the world for years.(1,5)

Unlike natural based paper or glass, plastics remain in the marine ecosystem forever, floating through the seas constantly breaking into smaller pieces. (4) They become polymers and toxic chemicals suitably the size of plankton which makes up the diet of marine animals. (2, 3)

Recent research has discovered zooplankton is ingesting micro-plastics itself, the plastic toxins reach much deeper into the food chain and strike the base of the marine food web.(6),/p>

With the motion of the ocean plastics and micro-plastics are introduced into the international food chain, accumulating in birds, fish, marine mammals and potentially humans as the toxins biomagnify while moving up the food chain.(3) Worldwide, nearly one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually by plastics by either entanglement, being strangled, choked and starved.(4)

Our goal from the practice of beach clean-ups is to compile the most comprehensive dataset on marine debris to use as leverage for international change, stopping the input at its source, human choice. The source of the pollution is the population; our decisions control how much pollutants become a part of the marine ecosystem. Making the choice whether to continue using plastic bottles, bags and packaging, deciding to litter out of laziness or ensuring yours and other’s rubbish and recyclables are disposed of accordingly, maybe even choosing to get involved with one of Tangaroa’s clean-ups.

We can blame packaging companies and point fingers at tourist activities but it can quickly come down to a person’s ignorance, responsibility and choice. The majority of plastics come from our urban regions, off the streets, from the bins or dumps, the beaches and the shores or out at sea. (4) For such a global issue, in perspective, it simply takes a local solution to start filling in our pollution footprints.

Experience It

All it takes is seeing it to believe it. Even though the human race is aware of global pollution, we don’t fully understand the magnitude of how much ends up in the ocean and damage it does to the ecosystem. I was once unaware until I became part of the Tangaroa Blue team on the first Orpheus Island clean up. It was an astounding eye opener that filled me with shock, disgust, and goals of environmental conservation and rehabilitation. The opportunity of becoming involved helps eradicate polluted sites, discover items making it into the waterways, indicating the source and putting it to an end. Join Us.

By Vanessa Carey, Tangaroa Blue Foundation


  1. Marine Pollution
  2. Ocean Crusaders – Nat Geo, Clean Up Australia, Plastic Pollution Coalition sources
  3. Global Micro-plastics Project – Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation
  4. Australian Marine Conservation Society – Plastic Pollution by Tm Winton, AMCS Patron
  5. Tangaroa Blue Foundation – Marine Debris Initiative
  6. Zooplankton are Eating Plastics by Katie Valentine Source: Think Progress, Environment, 15th of July 2015 – The Daily Catch News App

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