Heading to the beach isn’t always the first thing you think of in mid-winter, but for hundreds of volunteers in Queensland that’s exactly what they’ve been doing as they take part in the ReefClean program, which is aiming to reduce the volume of marine debris entering the Great Barrier Reef and increase awareness in local communities about actions they can take to prevent litter from entering Reef waterways.
The program includes community clean up events, workshops, school engagements and monitoring activities along the length of the Great Barrier Reef, from the tip of Cape York to Bundaberg.
In the short time since on-ground works began in March our volunteers have collected and recorded an astonishing amount of marine debris at beaches that seem idyllic at first glance. From the tropical shores of Cairns to the southern tip of the Reef at Bustard Bay, over 2 tonnes of marine debris has been removed from beaches in our ReefClean activities this year.
Ropes, fishing nets and foam are some of the easy-to spot culprits, but the smaller stuff causes big problems. Cigarette butts, bottle tops and recreational fishing line can poison or entrap marine life and seabirds and can be hard to spot on the beach. Volunteers have been carefully combing clean-up sites to locate and collect debris of all sizes, and everything collected during clean-ups is recorded and the data entered in the Australian Marine Debris Initiative Database.
Recording information on marine debris is a key Citizen Science activity in the ReefClean program. By learning what types of debris are collected, what sites are impacted and comparing observations we can develop action plans to target marine debris at the source.
Led by Tangaroa Blue and delivered in partnership with Conservation Volunteers Australia and a consortium of key partner organisations, ReefClean is a five-year program running to 2023 funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust.
ReefClean Program Partners
Photos: volunteers collect and sort marine debris at Mackay Harbour Beach on July 21