The School for Field Studies at Orpheus Island, October 2019

Twenty-nine students and staff from the School for Field Studies (SFS) visited Orpheus Island from 10-12 October 2019. Marine debris was our focus on the day that we arrived on Orpheus and we made our way over to Figtree Bay in the afternoon heat. Once there we divided into three teams and set about our two tasks.

Our first task was to sort the bags of debris collected, but not sorted, by the previous SFS group who visited Orpheus in July. That group did a thorough job of clearing up adjacent Big Rock Bay, which was accessible on that occasion on the low tide. Two groups set about sorting their predecessors’ booty while the third group braved the heat and began to clean up Figtree Bay.

We collected eight bags of debris at Big Rock Bay in July and the October group managed to get six of these bags sorted. There were no real surprises amongst the marine debris. Our haul mirrored the top items recorded in the AMDI database with 1803 plastic bits and pieces and 860 lids and tops making up 86% of items counted. Interestingly, we only recorded 10 plastic drink bottles. Perhaps the Queensland container refund scheme, not quite one-year-old, is starting to make a difference.

Speaking of making a difference, I plotted a graph for our students from data Vanessa Carey provided from previous clean-ups at Figtree Bay and Big Rock Bay. It shows that done regularly, we can significantly reduce the marine debris littering special parts of our coast.

The volume of marine debris collected during beach clean-ups at Figtree Bay and Big Rock Bay, Orpheus Island 2015-2019.

Too hot to stay in the sun for long, our October beach clean-up crew tag-teamed with those sorting marine debris in the relatively cool shade. Over the course of two hours, our group collected two bags of debris from Figtree Bay, clearing approximately 75% of the beach.
Hot and tired, our group was keen to get back over the hill to the Orpheus Island Research Station where we were treated to a late afternoon snorkel to cool us all down.

Written and submitted by Amanda Freeman

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