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Great Northern Clean-up at Alva

201710 AlvaTangaroa Blue Foundation was joined by Burdekin Shire Council, Scouts, and volunteers from Townsville and the local region for a biannual rubbish clean-up at Alva Beach. The community clean-up event was supported by NQ Dry Tropics through funding from the Austrailan Government's National Landcare Program, and aligned with ReefBlitz and the Great Northern Clean Up to push the message that the oceans are worth protecting. On October 14th 2017, thirteen beach cleaners picked up 186kg of predominantly land-based litter from 2km of coastline.

Leaving the shorelines cleaner and safer for the use of humans and the survival of marine wildlife, the team turned their focus to cataloguing each and every item they removed from the beach, contributing to the Australian Marine Debris Database. It’s important to know that data collection is just as imperative as cleaning up because if all we do is clean-up, that’s all we’ll ever do. The data is evidence to create change, it’ll ensure the long-term health and safety of marine ecosystems through ‘source reduction plans’ that aim to stop litter at its source before it enters the environment.

In 2015 volunteers removed 825.2kg of litter from 8km, another 646.25kg was collected from 7km in 2016 and an overall 526kg in 2017 from 4.5km of coastline. Over the past few years Alva Beach has been a targeted clean-up site twice a year due to illegal dumping acts and the unwanted rubbish load that continues to creep onto the Australia’s coast. “Every six months we visit Alva its always astonishing to see how much land-based litter accumulates and pollutes this local beach.” – Vanessa Carey, Tangaroa Blue Coordinator, Townsville.

Majority of items found at Alva Beach are plastics including bags, food packaging, drink bottles, lids, straws, cutlery and cigarette butts, with no shortage of aluminum cans, glass bottles and broken glass. Hopefully Tangaroa Blue will start seeing a change in the dataset once the Plastic Bag Ban and Container Refund Scheme are implemented on the 1st of July 2018, aiding in the reduction of these types of litter ending up on Alva shorelines and beaches along the Queensland coast.

Alva is an accessible and popular spot for leisure activities and is also a departure site to dive on the SS Yongala that sunk 106 years ago only 12nm (a 3o minute boat ride) from Alva Beach. Over the years the shipwreck has become an artificial coral reef ecosystem that supports life of sea turtles, olive sea snakes, an array of bottom dwelling animals, sharks, rays, migrating whales and a number of pelagic and reef fish species. Due to the proximity to human activity and the immense losses of litter from land and sea, these animals are vulnerable to ingestion or entanglement which can cause blockages, strangling, amputation and death.

Currently 40,000 pieces of plastic float in every square kilometer of ocean affecting at least 633 species worldwide including sea turtles, whales, sharks and seabirds. Over 8 million tons of plastic litter enter the ocean every year, lasting for hundreds of years as plastic never really breaks down, more specifically it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces. Single-use plastics are the ultimate source of this serious issue that our oceans face today. So, make the change today and bring those shopping bags and go-cups inside, take your reusable water bottle from home, and think about investing in reusable straws and cutlery. It’s time to break the addiction to plastics and source alternative materials because we can all make a difference for our saltwater country.

A final message from Chris Gallyer of the Burdekin Shire Council, “It’s illegal to dump rubbish, if anyone sees someone in the act of littering or dumping illegally please report details to Council. If you spot littering from a vehicle please report to www.ehp.qld.gov.au.”

Acknowledgements –
- This event is supported by NQ Dry Tropics through funding from the Australian Government National Landcare Program
- Burdekin Shire Council - assisted in event promotion, took event pictures, provided a BBQ sausage sizzle to thank volunteers, transportation of volunteers and collecting clean-up bags from the beach to return for sorting/data collection
- Tangaroa Blue Foundation – event planner and coordinator, data collection
- Reef Citizen Science Alliance – promoting Tangaroa Blue’s clean-up event at Alva Beach as part of ReefBlitz 2017
- Traditional Owners, the Gudjuda Reference Group – supports all Alva Beach clean-up events but were absent on the day due to intentions of cleaning up marine debris from the offshore beach of Alva. Unfortunately, ocean conditions weren’t suitable for the rangers’ boat to access the beach. However, as soon as conditions are favourable, Tangaroa Blue, Burdekin Shire Council and Gudjuda Rangers will head out to complete this mission.

Photo taken by: Brianna Pennisi, Burdekin Shire Council