Darwin Harbour Clean-Up July 5 2011

201107 DHCUAround 90 volunteers and workers from government, non-government and private agencies collected just over a tonne of general rubbish from Darwin Harbour's coastlines and waters in the second year of the Darwin Harbour Clean-Up, organised by the Northern Territory Seafood Council and OceanWatch Australia.

The idea for the clean-up day came from commercial fishers who collect rubbish, including lost or discarded foreign fishing nets, as a part of their daily activities. Working and living on the sea, they are confronted regularly with the negative consequences of rubbish in the sea – including threats to marine and birdlife, the hazards to boating posed by foreign fishing gear and plastics, and seeing formerly pristine, remote beaches now looking more like rubbish dumps.

The clean-up day is a way of bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders to remove rubbish from the Harbour, and its mangroves and coastline. It also helps identify "hotspots" to help with some targeted education and prevention.

The weight of rubbish was down on last year, which was to be expected seeing as the two and a half tonne collected in 2010 would have included years of accumulated rubbish in some areas, including some very heavy items around Fishermen's Wharf.

As well as the tonne of general rubbish collected by boats and land crews, the Darwin Port Corporation pulled an extra 1.6 tonnes of old metal from the water around Fishermen's Wharf. This had been put on the "to do" list in 2010 and so hasn't been included in the overall weight of rubbish for 2011.

Eight boats with crews from 5 to 10 people, including several Parks and Wildlife Junior Rangers, cleaned up the mangroves and water between Stokes Hill Wharf and Hudson Creek, while 7 land-based crews cleaned up hotspots around Darwin and over on Cox Peninsula.

For the first time, divers organised by the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory searched Lake Alexander at East Point Reserve for rubbish and debris. Whilst the dive crew reported back that the bottom of Lake Alexander was free of rubbish, land-based volunteers collected bags of common rubbish around the lake.

Items found in the water and around the coast included 8 tyres, several chairs, 150 metres of fishing line, 4500 plastic bags, 5200 aluminium cans, 1700 plastic drink bottles, 1900 pieces of cardboard (mainly fireworks) and 63 thongs.

The number of aluminium cans was down on last year's tally of 7600, while the number of plastic bottles remained more or less the same. There were no intact shopping trolleys recovered this year, compared to the 17 collected in 2010.

While there was a drop in the overall weight of rubbish collected this year, the data showed that numbers of items such as aluminium cans and plastic bottles were more or less the same in most hotspots. The main hotspots are from Mandorah Beach Hotel to West Point on Cox Peninsula (aluminium cans), Sadgroves Creek to Hudson Creek, including Fishermen's Wharf (plastic bottles, plastic bags, glass bottles, aluminium cans), and Coconut Grove to Ludmilla Creek (plastic bottles, plastic bags, glass bottles, aluminium cans).

Fireworks, counted as paper/cardboard, were found in high numbers at West Point (Cox Peninsula), Rapid Creek, Coconut Grove and Lake Alexander. The concern with fireworks casings entering our waters is that most of them contain an inner cylinder of hard plastic, or have a hard plastic base or rocket tail.

Last year volunteers were unable to get a count of plastic bags because most of what was collected were bits and pieces of old, disintegrated bags. This year an estimated 4500 bags were collected, mostly from the Darwin area land and water sites.

For further information: contact NT SeaNet Officer, Lyn Lambeth on (08) 8981 5194

The 2011 Darwin Harbour Clean-Up is organised by the Northern Territory Seafood Council and OceanWatch Australia's SeaNet Program through funding from the Australian Government's Caring for our Country initiative and Territory Natural Resource Management's Coastcare Program.