Cape York Clean-up Tour 2019

Three down, three to go!

With the passing of July and the middle of the year, the TangaroaBlue team are halfway through their Cape York Clean-up Tour for 2019, targeting a different location each month for 5 days from May to September. Different groups of volunteers have joined the adventure to Cape York and clean-up quests at Cape Bedford which is north of Hopevale, Captain Billy’s Landing on the east coast which isn’t too far from the tip of Australia, and recently the team has just returned from the only clean-up on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula, Mapoon Beach which is just north of Weipa.

Each location showed its remote beauty, displaying tropical views, colourful sands, mountainous sand dunes, outstanding sunrises and sunsets, tranquil sounds of rolling waves and crackling fires, even witnessing an occasional nesting sea turtle and the special wildlife who call Cape York home.

Despite the wonder of these remote locations, Cape York coasts are drowning in tonnes of plastics!!  Plastics account for 95% of the marine debris collected, and 90% of what’s collected is actually coming from offshore sources.

In May from the 6th to 10th, at the Cape Bedford clean up, nine participants from Tangaroa Blue and Conservation Volunteers, with help from the Elim Campground caretaker, cleared 1.5 tonnes of marine debris from 2 kilometers of the pumice- and plastic-coated coastline. The haul of marine debris delivered 12,000 hard plastic fragments, 6,184 plastic bottle tops/lids, 1,197 rope scraps, 1,048 rubber thongs, and 690 foam insulation/packaging.  Plastic personal care bottles, rubber remnants, rope in meters, plastic bleach/cleaner bottles, and film remnants were also included in the top 10 items. At the end and after all achieved, the hard-working team enjoyed half a day exploring the nearby Elim Campground Beach, and Rainbow Beach which is a beautiful blend of colours from white to black and orange to purple.   It’s an amazing area, filled with culture, wildlife, and diverse vegetation.

In June from the 10th to 14th, the Captain Billy’s Landing clean-up attracted 17 participants who travelled for two up the east coast, past Bramwell station and onto the boggy track towards the coastal campsite and the team’s home for the next 6 days.

Captain Billy’s Landing has a sculptured and unique coastline that varies from grassy sand dunes, rocky caves, and strikingly colourful solid-sandy cliffs with pandanis trees growing out from the walls, thick vegetation lining the top and sea sculpted rocks at the base.  The coast went on past each headline, with a never for-seeming end.  Over 8km was cleaned by the team, removing 1.6 tonnes of marine debris, with the top item counts being 22,221 hard plastic remnants, 5,595 plastic bottle tops/lids, 650 rubber thongs, 575 rope in meters and 473 foam packaging/insulation.  Rope scraps, broken glass, rubber remnants, plastic drink bottles, film, and burnt plastic remnants are the following top items. The end of the week brought a game of charades and a trip to nearby Fruit Bat Falls so the team could bond in a beautiful part of the Cape before travelling home and parting ways.

In July from the 13th to 21st, a group of nine travelled two days towards the west coast of Cape York to reach Cullen Point campground at Mapoon Beach.  With the help of the Mapoon Land & Sea Rangers, other campers and locals who drove an hour up from Weipa, 6.5km was relieved from 1.7 tonnes of suffocating marine debris which included 15,256 hard plastic remnants, 2,551 rubber thongs, 2,426 plastic drink bottles, 1,560 rope scraps, and 1,556 plastic bottle tops/lids.

On the final day, a half-day was given to roam and relax which ended with an evening of sunsets and moon rises over the horizon, that drew a nesting flatback sea turtle up onto the beach out front of camp that was cleaned earlier in the week.  It was the highlight of the trip and extremely rewarding to experience the link between what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

 

Events on the east were a part of the 5-year project called ReefClean. ReefClean is a project started in early 2019 that focuses on removing and preventing marine debris along the Great Barrier Reef region over the next five years. The program offers Community Clean-up Events, Site Monitoring, School & Community Engagement Activities, and Community Source Reduction Plan Workshops. ReefClean is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust with support from Tangaroa Blue Foundation, Conservation Volunteers Australia, AUSMAP, Capricornia Catchments, Eco Barge Clean Seas, OceanWatch Australia, Reef Check Australia, South Cape York Catchments and Think Spatial. For more information, visit www.reefclean.org.

On the west coast, the Mapoon Beach Clean-up was funded by the Australian Government’s Improving Your Local Parks and Environment Grant.

Written by Vanessa Carey

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