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2011 Cassowary Coast Reef Guardian Schools Future Leaders Eco Challenge

On Wednesday 7 September 2011, students from Six Reef Guardian Schools from the Cassowary Coast Region joined together to do a clean up in the area of Rotary Park and the adjacent Wongaling beach as part of their 2011 Future Leaders Eco Challenge (FLEC).

A total of 36 students and 8 teachers from the following schools: Feluga State School; El Arish State School; Mission Beach State School; Sth Johnstone State School; Mourilyan State School; Lower Tully State School; St Clares Catholic School (Tully), along with 3 staff members from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority collected and analyzed the rubbish in this area. The students also spent time during the FLEC learning about the coastal vegetation, the adaptations of the plants that help them live there and the role they play in protecting our coastal communities from Judy from the Cassowary Coast Regional Council (CCRC). In another activity, with the assistance of Peter also from the CCRC, the students surveyed the beach profile to provide a picture of what this part of the coastline looks like and understand how this is used by the council to monitor change over time. Located at Wongaling Beach just across from Dunk Island this area had been significantly impacted by Cyclone Yasi earlier in the year.

The Cassowary Coast Regional Council and various teams of volunteers and recovery workers have put a lot of work into cleaning up the beaches and coastlines of the Cassowary Coast region in the months since Cyclone Yasi. It was pleasing to see little evidence of marine debris at Wongaling Beach that could be directly associated with the cyclone. The Reef Guardian Schools would like to congratulate the Council for coordinating the cleanup efforts and thank all of those involved for a very thorough clean up job. Unfortunately however there was still a significant amount of rubbish that was collected. The clean up area is a popular local park directly fronting the beautiful Wongaling Beach. A total of 619 items of rubbish were found with the most common rubbish item collected being cigarette butts (179). Other common items were rubbish associated with food packaging and drink containers popular with weekend picnics and BBQ's. These larger items were the obvious plastic rubbish but the keen eyes of the Reef Guardian School students also found significant numbers of plastic fragments (93) and plastic bag remnants (61). The students discussed the likely source of the rubbish items they found and came to the conclusion that much of the rubbish had its source in their community. They came up with some catchy jingles that they would like to use to educate the community about the danger marine debris present to the health of our oceans and the life that they support.

"Don't be mean keep our beaches and oceans clean"

"Keep your Butts off our Beaches"

The message the students want to spread in their community is "If you can carry it with you to the beach you can carry it to the closest rubbish bin."