The Australian Government has provided $700,000 from its Reef Trust to clean up marine debris across the Great Barrier Reef, protecting iconic marine species and helping to conserve the reef’s Outstanding Universal Value.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will team with community groups along the Queensland coast to conduct reef clean-up events.
The first annual clean-up will be held in October 2015. Waterways, beaches and the reef catchment will be cleared of litter to prevent wet season rains washing it in to the ocean.
Reef Guardian councils, fishers, farmers and schools, along with traditional owners, community groups and tourism operators, will get involved in these clean-ups and organise their own activities.
Under the initiative, environmental groups, Tangaroa Blue in far north Queensland and Eco Barge Clean Seas in the Whitsundays, will undertake regional clean-up activities.
The Great Barrier Reef is a great natural treasure and it’s important we keep it free of litter – for the marine environment itself and communities and industries that depend on a healthy reef.
This initiative will coordinate efforts using strong local networks to tackle a problem requiring local solutions.
Identifying marine debris hotspots through the development of a smartphone app is part of this new initiative being delivered under the $5 million Dugong and Turtle Protection Plan.
Clean waterways, beaches and coastal areas are also part of the appeal of the area for millions of tourists who visit each year.
According to the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2014, marine debris affects inshore habitats, species, and the reef’s aesthetic values.
Between 2008 and 2014, about 683,000 individual items of marine debris, weighing in total over 42 tonnes, were collected from beaches in the reef region by volunteers. Plastic is the main offender.
Plastic bags, micro-plastics, bottles, ropes and nets come from both land and sea-based sources. Plastic bags and nets can injure and kill dugong, turtles and sea birds.
Marine debris can also pose a navigational hazard and smother corals.
The marine debris clean up initiative complements several programmes funded by the Australian Government and contributes to national action under the Threat Abatement Plan for the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine life.