Unearthing Hazards

Tangaroa Blue Foundation, through their ReefClean project, has unearthed several hazards in their most recent monitoring survey of marine debris impacting the Great Barrier Reef region.

Two unmarked silver canisters were found washed ashore northern Cape York beaches. These are filled with aluminium phosphide, a toxic combination of chemicals that are fatal to ingest or inhale, used in fumigation aboard ships. Officials urge locals not to touch these canisters, stand upwind to avoid possible inhalation, and to phone 000 immediately if any are found.

Also discovered were two wooden canoes suspected to have washed down from Papua New Guinea. While these are not considered as dangerous as the toxic canisters, they were reported to the Department of Agriculture to prevent pest and biosecurity risks.

Tangaroa Blue Foundation holds annual helicopter surveys between Cairns and the tip of Cape York to grade marine debris loads and monitor the status of those areas. This, in conjunction with the annual series of Cape York region clean-ups, helps to preserve this vulnerable area. The majority of the predominately plastic pollution originated from offshore sources, including a significant load from both domestic and international commercial fishing operations and plastic water bottles from all neighbouring Asia Pacific countries along with a small percentage of Australian brands.

The most recent ReefClean Cape Bedford clean-up, held May 5-11th in Cape Bedford yielded 1.526 tonnes of rubbish which was sorted, collated, and uploaded into the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) Database. The most common items found during this 5-day event were plastic fragments, lids and bottle tops and rubber thongs. The stand-out items at this clean-up include a medical drip bag, a glass bottle full of coriander seeds, a thong with foreign script, and a massive bundle of blue plastic strapping bands.



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