This situation is scary to say the least, but every one of us can make a choice for the greater good by breaking our personal addictions to single use plastics and helping to clean up the mess!
A mosaic of micro plastics along the hightide line was never something I had to witness as a child spending countless hours playing on the beach and in the mangroves. Unfortunately, this is a sad new reality which blemishes even our most remote pristine beaches.
Although most Australians are well educated and ethical enough to dispose of plastic responsibly, our globalised society means we share the success as well as the short comings of our species.
Plastic is strong, light, cheap, and easy to mass produce therefore it has made life for humanity very convenient over the last few decades. Unfortunately, another one of plastic’s traits is its inability to break down.
As plastic makes its way into our oceans its breaks up into microscopic pieces and enters the food chain, eventually ending up inside us!
Recent studies have revealed over 80% of human bodies contain micro plastics and science is racing to discover how this will affect us in the future.
I am proud to announce that Gympie District Landcare has combined forces with Tangaroa Blue in an annual Clean up of the Great Sandy Strait.
In our combined efforts we cleaned up from Teewah Beach to Double Island Point and then on to K’gari, cleaning from Hook Point all the way up to the Maheno Shipwreck.
The area covered was approximately 85km, in which we collected 1.8 Tonnes of rubbish!
This was a fantastic effort by the team from GDLG, Tangaroa Blue and all volunteers involved.
Personally, I learnt a lot about marine debris and the thousands of different plastic components that have made all our lives slightly easier and simultaneously made our environment sicker.
While spending a week with Marine Scientists, I learned of many horrific stories about different types of marine debris and how it ended up in our oceans. Cruise ships dumping their entire rubbish cargo in the open ocean, Southeast Asian countries with entire waste management programs consisting of marine dumping, and illegal fishing trades dumping nets full of fish when they can no longer hold product onboard.
One narrative I found particularly disturbing was centred around the countless glowsticks and bleach bottles I continued to find along the beach. Old glowsticks on the beach were something I had often come across in the past and assumed they were a remnant of a beach party lazily left behind. Unfortunately, they hold a darker truth.
In over fished reefs in Southeast Asia, fishing villages can no longer support themselves with conventional fishing methods. They instead set up Bamboo fish-attracting devices on degraded reefs, then go out at night with glowsticks and bleach bottles, which when opened underwater, stun all fish within a radius. The stunned fish are then killed and collected.
This dangerous and damaging process is unfortunately the only way many of these fishermen can survive in an increasingly depleted oceanic system. The sheer number of remnants washed up on our beaches due to these fishing practices is staggering.
Tangaroa Blue has a philosophy, ‘if all you do is pick up rubbish you will be picking up rubbish forever’. Their main objective during these Australia Wide clean up exercises is to sort debris and collect data to provide evidence to governing bodies to make legislative change around the world.
These changes include pushing governments globally to ban certain types of plastics and to ban exceptionally damaging fishing practices.
I can say from my own experience this exercise was extremely rewarding and had a similar therapeutic effect to my other hobbies, which include planting trees and pulling out weeds.
If you are interested in making a positive change in our environment, on a local and global level, feel free to contact Tangaroa Blue, who hold annual clean up events all over the country.
Volunteering at these events is a great way to execute a guilt free holiday, and the satisfaction of cleaning a large stretch of coastline, while enjoying the sand, the tides, and the wildlife, is something I would highly recommend.
Locally Gympie District Landcare is organising clean up events right here in town, so if you would like to protect our beautiful Mary River and our threatened Great Barrier Reef, please feel free to give us a call and put your name down to volunteer.