Palm Island students protect the Great Barrier Reef

More than 60 students and teachers from Bwgcolman Community School and St Michael’s Catholic School, Palm Island swapped the classroom for the beach as they learnt about how local environmental actions can protect the Great Barrier Reef.

The day-long activities were part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) annual Future Leaders Eco Challenges that raise awareness about how activities on the land can affect the marine environment.

Future Leaders Eco Challenges are about students acting local but thinking global when it comes to addressing threats to the Reef.
GBRMPA Acting Reef Guardian School Program Manager Carolyn Luder said during the day students learnt about marine debris, conducted a clean-up at front beach and analysed what type of rubbish they found.

“During an hour beach clean-up students found over 960 pieces of rubbish which weighed over 52 kilograms,” she said.

“Students collected marine debris from the beach and got the opportunity to contribute data to the Australian Marine Debris Initiative.”

The Tangaroa Blue Foundation Australian Marine Debris Initiative is a network of communities, schools, industries, government agencies and individuals focused on reducing the amount of marine debris washing into our oceans.

Through contributing to the Australian Marine Debris Initiative everyone can become involved in helping to identify the sources of rubbish on our beaches and in the ocean, and working towards mitigation strategies to reduce marine debris and the potential effect on marine wildlife.

“The majority of rubbish found on the beach was aluminium cans; plastic, paper and cardboard food packing and plastic drink bottles,” Miss Luder said.

“Students learnt that marine debris can take a long time to breakdown in the ocean environment such as a plastic bottle which can take around 450 years to breakdown.”

“They also got to devise potential strategies for reducing marine debris on the beach like putting rubbish in the bin, recycling aluminium cans and reusing plastic bags.”

Tangaroa Blue Foundation provided support for the event.

GBRMPA’s Reef Guardian Schools program includes 308 schools and over 126,000 students from Torres Strait to Brisbane taking part in Reef education and environmental activities in their local area.

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