Lately there has been a lot of noise about the ill effects of plastic debris on the marine macrofauna of the Great Barrier Reef.
But there’s another equally disturbing issue that’s only just being recognised – plastics carry disease that threatens coral communities. And that’s a huge problem with a recent major study estimating that there are 11 billion pieces of plastic ensnared on coral reefs that are already battling bleaching events, nutrient loads, sediments and pesticides.
The Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership has previously reported on the volume of plastic waste recovered from local beaches and waterways. In 2015-16, 2.62 tonnes of debris, mostly plastic, were collected from Wet Tropics beaches by community groups.
Last week, Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership Independent Chair Steve Turton and Manager Greg Vinall decided to see first-hand just how serious the problem is, joining Parley for the Oceans, Cairns Airport and volunteer staff to remove debris from the Ellie Point area adjacent to Cairns Airport.
Despite the clean-up area being inaccessible to the general public, over 500kg of debris was removed in just a few short hours. Much of the material removed was plastic.
“It’s amazing to see the volume of rubbish that finds its way deep into these mangrove systems,” said Greg. “It wasn’t unusual to find dozens of plastic and glass bottles presumably pushed up by storm surges, well into the mangroves above the high tide mark”.
The story was the same along the beach front, with the majority of debris consisting of plastic bottles.
“It’s frustrating to think about the unnecessary and completely avoidable damage that this material is doing to our prized marine ecosystems, when the solution is as simple as everyone putting rubbish and recycling where they belong.”
Image thanks to Parley for the Oceans