Cleaning Islands

Tangaroa Blue Foundation and a team of 17 ambitious individuals set out from Lucinda towards Orpheus Island National Park with a mission to relieve sections of the windward stretch of coast from the burden of discarded and forgotten marine debris. Staying at the Orpheus Island Research Station from the 28th of September to the 1st of October 2018, the crew split up into groups to cover more coastline over the two days, accessing some sites by hiking trails or via water with Queensland Parks and Wildlife’s barge, the “Island Ranger”.

The group successfully cleared a total of 3.5 kilometers of coastline from 711kgs of marine debris that translates to a volume of 10,970 liters, where more than 80% of the haul was plastic!!

The year 2018 has hosted two Orpheus Island clean-up events where Tangaroa Blue has been able to collaborate with partners in the expansion of clean-up sites around the Goolboddi Islands. This past weekend the team targeted their existing sites at Pioneer, Fig Tree and Big Rock bays, in addition to two new sites at South Beach and Picnic Bay on Orpheus. They were also able to stretch out and step foot on the northern beach of Fantome Island for the first time, removing 210kgs of mostly light-weight plastics such as drink bottles and foam! Across just 600 meters, the team loaded up 4,200 liters from Fantome onto the Island Ranger for transportation to mainland for proper disposal.

“Our priorities are to clean up, collect data, and get the debris off the island. We also aim to divert as much rubbish from landfill as possible towards recycling, and into reusable items for artists. We also prioritize identifying the sources of the different items washing in so we can ultimately stop the flow of rubbish into our environment in the first place”, says project coordinator Vanessa Carey.

Picnic Bay sits opposite the Orpheus Island Lodge where 310kgs of marine debris had already been picked up off the 230-meter-long beach by the resort’s staff, and compiled into an abandoned tinny. This assistance gave the Tangaroa Blue team more time to record data on the 4,340 liters for the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) Database. At South Beach, the Department of Environment and Science, and Queensland Parks and Wildlife were able to clear 90kgs from 900 meters of coast, loading up another 1,350 liters for the trip to mainland.

“As volunteers sorted through the debris they had just collected off the beach, you could see their interest and enthusiasm towards data collection grow as they understood the importance of recording what items are washing up where so the debris can be tracked back to its source”, says project coordinator Craig Turner.

Marine debris clean-ups on Orpheus Island began in July 2014 at Fig Tree Bay, where 630kgs was removed from the 300-meter beach. Venturing from the research station and across the “Creepy Crawly Track” again in July 2015, volunteers removed half the weight from Fig Tree, and discovered a neighboring site called Big Rock Bay that harbored 505kgs, which was the beginning of expansions for future clean-up projects. Fast forward to this year, where the total weight and volume of marine debris removed from Fig Tree and Big Rock dramatically dropped to 205kgs in April 2018 and an astonishing 50kgs this past weekend!

Marine debris is an ever persisting and always compounding product of human society, and for many first-time volunteers, this trip solidified an understanding of the need to reduce. “The problem of plastics in our oceans”, said by volunteers “was really driven home to me when I watched plastic bottles and fragments crumble into smaller pieces in front of my eyes as I tried to remove them!”

Plastics break up over time into ingestible sizes and becomes unavoidable to marine life – thus biomagnifying into our human food chain. Add to this, discarded fishing gear and floating rope nets, it’s clear that our consumption is fast becoming the demise of our oceans. Together we can all make a difference for the health of our saltwater country by shedding our single-use habits and transitioning to a waste-free lifestyle by making more environmentally conscious purchases and choosing plastic alternatives that are either reusable or better for the environment.

This event was funded and supported by the Morris Foundation, owners of Orpheus Island Lodge. The event also acknowledges partners such as James Cook University’s Orpheus Island Research Station, Orpheus Island Lodge, Queensland Parks and Wildlife, the Department of Environment and Science, Absolute North Charters, Port of Lucinda, Palm Island Barge and Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council, who have been involved in our Orpheus endeavors. Thank you to our Tangaroa Blue Foundation coordinators Vanessa Carey and Michael Craig Turner, and of course to our devoted clean-up crew helping care for our oceans.

Experience It!
Tangaroa Blue is already in discussion with partners for next year’s clean-up, with intentions to continue expanding to various beaches and new sites within the region. Over the past couple years, the debris load returning to Lucinda has really intrigued and gained traction in the local community and amongst other organisations that are eager to partner up and assist in the rehabilitation of the Goolboddi Islands and surrounding marine environment.

Sometimes it takes is seeing it to believe it. Despite the global awareness of marine debris, it’s still hard to fully understand the magnitude of how much ends up in the ocean and how much damage it does to the ecosystem. Despite the amount of contact with marine debris, the Tangaroa Blue team is still always astounded of how many household items are ending up in the environment. These clean-up trips are truly an eye-opening experience, filling you with shock, disgust but motivation towards environmental conservation and rehabilitation. Join us today and our Orpheus Island endeavors next year to help protect our oceans! You too can get on board with this worthy cause; find out how at

Written by: Vanessa Carey (Project coordinator)

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