Palm Island Reef Guardian Schools Future Leaders Eco Challenge 2015

On Wednesday the 12th of August Tangaroa Blue was invited to attend the Palm Island Future Leaders Eco Challenge (FLEC), an annual event that is run by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). As Reef Guardian schools, 17 students from St Michaels Catholic College, 29 students from Bwgcoleman State School, and 8 of their teachers came together for the day to participate in activities that would help them learn about the Great Barrier Reef, and develop new skills that would help them to protect it.

The morning of the FLEC began with a welcome to country, given by a student from Bwgcoleman State School, which was then followed by a presentation given by Tangaroa Blue on the issue of marine debris. The students actively participated in the presentation, telling stories of the types of rubbish they commonly found on their local beach, and how they thought the rubbish got there. After talking about how marine debris can negatively impact on reef habitat and wildlife such as turtles and dugongs, the students were more than ready to get onto the Palm Island Main beach to remove as much debris as they could.

The students were divided into groups represented by a different colour, and with their groups supervisor, they made the short walk down to the waterfront. Armed with bags, gloves, and a data-recording sheet, the students gathered the debris off the beach, and recorded what they were finding as they went along for entry into the Australian Marine Debris Initiative Database. This information will be used to identify the most common types of beach litter found on Palm Island Main Beach, and will assist future efforts to stop the rubbish before it ever gets the chance to enter the marine environment.

The most common items found by the students during the clean-up included, but was not limited to:

127 aluminium cans
177 pieces of broken glass
208 plastic drink bottles
1,003 cigarette butts

Single use, disposable items made up the bulk of debris that was removed, and though many of the items were very light in weight, the students managed to remove an impressive 127.5kgs from (x meters of beach) during their hour on the beach.

After disposing of the debris into a nearby skip bin, and collecting the reusable clean-up bags to be used again during future clean-ups, the group made their way back to St Michael’s Catholic School Tuckshop where they were treated to a freshly made, litter-free lunch. With 46 mouths to feed, the reusable cups, plates and cutlery kept a large amount of disposable plastic out of landfill, and also helped to reduce the strain on our planets limited resources.

After lunch students participated in an activity called Seagrass-Watch, and spent the afternoon exploring the low tide environment off the Palm Island Main Beach. The diverse array of marine life found during the activity, including crabs, sea cucumbers, brittle stars, and even a sea hare, reinforced why it was so important to keep our oceans clean and healthy.

This event was supported by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust.

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