Community clean up at Greta Beach, Christmas Island

Preserving Christmas Island

Accompanied by a team of 14 dedicated volunteers, Casey Woodward, WA Project Coordinator for Tangaroa Blue, embarked on a remarkable journey spanning 2600km to reach the remote haven of Christmas Island in the heart of the Indian Ocean. This island, a supremely biodiverse region of Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories (IOT), has been a recurring destination for Tangaroa Blue since 2017.

With the recent success of an Australian Marine Parks grant, Tangaroa Blue now has a dedicated on-island project coordinator, Hayley Cook. Charged with a diverse array of tasks, Hayley is about to commence quarterly marine debris monitoring initiatives, enact source reduction strategies, and collaborate closely with the local community to foster education and catalyse for sustainable change. This voyage marked a pivotal moment for the team, to join forces, aligning their efforts with a comprehensive calendar of activities in the annual IOT Voyage.

Over the course of just one week, the team, along with a cohort of enthusiastic Christmas Island volunteers managed to complete six beach clean-ups, at even some of the island’s most rugged and remote beaches, such as West White Beach. Collectively, their combined efforts led to the removal of an astounding 1.2 tonnes of marine debris, 45,320 items. Each clean-up operation was meticulously recorded using the Australia Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) Database.

Greta Beach, Christmas Island

Noteworthy collaborations marked this year’s endeavour, as Michelle Blewitt, Program Director of microplastics organisation AUSMAP, teamed up with the crew to provide training workshops at both Cocos (Keeling) and Christmas Island. The workshops resulted in the accreditation of 33 new ambassadors who successfully completed the program. These ambassadors will contribute vital microplastic data derived from samples collected across numerous IOT beaches, supporting ongoing monitoring efforts on Christmas Island.

A pivotal community presentation took place at Christmas Island District High School, led by Casey Woodward, Tangaroa Blue volunteer Alanah Campbell, and the team from Sea Country Solutions. This presentation introduced novel ideas and research findings to the community, shedding light on Tangaroa Blue’s new initiative, Project Recon. The session explored potential implementation within the IOT to trace and recover destructive ghost gear in the region. Alanah’s intriguing research on marine debris and seabird nesting habits garnered immense interest, particularly among the island’s passionate birdwatching community.

Tangaroa Blue and its volunteers remain deeply moved by the warmth and generosity of the people of the Indian Ocean Territories. The collective achievements of this voyage and the ongoing endeavours on Christmas Island are supported through the Indian Ocean Territories Marine Parks Grants. We are grateful to Christmas Island National Park, Parks Australia, Island Care Christmas Island, Christmas Island District High School, Christmas Island Shire, and the steadfast Christmas Island community. Their unwavering dedication to addressing this colossal issue is genuinely appreciated and acknowledged.

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