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2009 FNQMDP Report

Executive Summary

Tangaroa Blue Foundation (TBF), www.tangaroablue.org is a non-profit organisation dedicated to ocean conservation and protection.

The goals of the society are:

  • To create community awareness of marine environmental and conservation issues through marine environment science projects; and
  • To proactively participate in and organise marine conservation projects which address marine conservation issues.

In 2004 TBF founded the South West Marine Debris Project (SWMDP) to focus on the issue of marine debris in the south west region of Western Australia. The aim of the project is to find ways of reducing the amount of marine debris making its way into our oceans and impacting marine life.

In 2007 TBF launched the Far North Queensland Marine Debris Project (FNQMDP) with an aim of identifying the types of debris that is impacting the region, then to find ways of reducing those items from ending up in the ocean.

Over 3,000 TBF volunteers have collected more than 500,000 items of rubbish from beaches around Australia and New Zealand since 2004. In its fifth year of the Australian Marine Debris Project, data on what is making up the debris and where it is coming from is helping to create strategies to reduce the amount of rubbish in local waters.

In every square mile of ocean it is estimated that there are over 46,000 pieces of plastic, resulting in the deaths of more than 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals every year. This includes 20 Australian endangered animals, including sharks, turtles and marine mammals.

Impacts of marine debris on wildlife include entanglement that can cause restricted mobility, drowning, starvation, smothering and wounding, which in turn leads to infections, amputation of limbs and death. Debris may also be confused with prey species and ingested by marine wildlife, causing physical blockage in the digestive system and leading to internal injuries and starvation.

Table 1.1 Summary of the monitoring clean ups from Far North QLD beaches in 2009.

  • Number of volunteers: 895
  • Number of individual cleanup sites: 27
  • Number of individual pieces of marine debris collected: 61,453
  • Weight of marine debris collected: 3,233.4kg
  • Number of bags filled: 591
  • Number of kilometres cleaned over the project period: 389.3km
  • % of marine debris made of plastic: 66%

Debris collected during the year produced data which shows an endemic litter problem in the major population and tourist centres adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. Data suggests this litter accumulates and remains confined within the lagoon system of the reef but with a northward movement towards the Cape York region. At the south end of the reef more ocean sourced debris is evident. Future data from both the south end of the reef and the Torres Strait areas will shed light on the processes in those areas.

Based on the FNQMDP data we estimate 53% of all rubbish collected during the project results from littering. Of the total rubbish collected, 47% is made up of consumer end user and packaging items, the FNQMDP will therefore target cigarette butts and plastic packaging ending up as marine debris in 2010.

In particular, 4 Mile Beach, Port Douglas has high visitation numbers, and data has shown that 55% of the debris found on this beach is end user items and packaging. We believe that this strongly correlates with the lack of rubbish bin infrastructure along the beach and recommend at least 3 additional bins with educational stickers/signage be positioned along the beach access points.

Illegal beach fires are also a problem on many north Queensland beaches. These fires are often left still burning with broken glass bottles, cigarette butts, drug paraphernalia and other litter smouldering. Not only is this an eyesore, but a potential hazard to beach users, in particular children.

Partnerships between the local council, local police, Department of Environment and Resource Management and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to enforce anti-littering laws and beach fire laws are vital in getting the message across to those community members who offend and do not learn by other means.

Hundreds of plastic flowers left on the beach after wedding ceremonies were collected during cleanups in 2009. We recommend that as part of the contract between the wedding parties and local authorities that the use of these plastic flowers be banned from beach weddings to prevent them from becoming marine debris.

We've also become aware of a misconception in the community about the availability of recycling by local council. Many people use both recycling bins and normal waste bins for both types of rubbish with a belief that recycling does not occur in the region. We would like council to provide an educational campaign to show the recycling process in the region and information on what types of rubbish can be recycled to assist in the maximum amount of rubbish being recycled as possible.

During 2009, the FNQMDP project has successfully delivered an educational message on the impacts of marine debris throughout the community via educational presentations at schools and community groups engaging over 560 participants.

There have also been over 9 million hits on the www.oceancare.org.au website which has assisted TBF in promoting and expanding marine debris projects throughout Queensland, Australia and New Zealand.

Further detailed information on the marine debris collected during the 2009 Far North Queensland Marine Debris Project is available on request.

Introduction

The goals of the society are:

  • To create community awareness of marine environmental and conservation issues through marine environment science projects; and
  • To proactively participate in and organise marine conservation projects which address marine conservation issues.

In 2004 TBF founded the South West Marine Debris Project (SWMDP) to focus on the issue of marine debris in the south west region of Western Australia. The aim of the project is to find ways of reducing the amount of marine debris making its way into our oceans and impacting marine life.

In 2007 TBF launched the Far North Queensland Marine Debris Project (FNQMDP) with an aim of identifying the types of debris that are impacting the region, as well as finding ways of reducing those items from ending up in the ocean.

The Far North Queensland Marine Debris Project comprises:

  • The annual Snapper Island Clean Up – a community clean up event on Snapper Island;
  • Monthly marine debris monitoring of 4 northern Queensland beaches and one island;
  • An educational marine debris website www.oceancare.org.au ;
  • Marine Debris Educational Presentations for community groups and schools;
  • Marine Debris Educational Materials including the Marine Debris Identification Manual and the Marine Debris Fact Sheets;
  • Scientific papers and reports based on the data collected in the project.

The 2009 Far North Queensland Marine Debris Project Report aims to provide an update of our research findings and a list of recommendations which focus on reducing the amount of marine debris being found in local waters.

Thanks to the following government agencies and organisations for funding and support, enabling us to continue the South West Marine Debris Project.