In the beginning of the year I organised a coastal clean up on Jabiru Island where over 520kg of trash was removed from the mangroves and parkland, including 171 bait bags – we counted a third of what we collected so I can only imagine that figure would have been well over 200. Download the report here!
A few months ago an organisation (or more so a coalition of organisations) I am involved in released some pretty stinky results about finding 48 dog poo bags with dog poo in the bags within 45minutes on Palm Beach, a southern Gold Coast beach. The Gold Coast Bulletin ran a good media campaign naming the beach Gold Coast’s stinkiest beach – reaching the Daily Mail in the UK! Despite 6months of no action from the City of Gold Coast (which is why we went to the media) the story caused quite a stir and with no time to spare council officers were down on the beach steam cleaning the beach back to it’s award winning clean beach standard. But after the media that week I found twice as many dog poo bags on Gold Coast’s beaches, even three dirty nappies. (Please note: we are yet to do a follow up monitoring audit to see if dog owners have changed their behaviour in picking up their dog’s poo and putting it in the bin or still leaving the poop in bags on the beach or hung up in the trees).
Then a month ago a coalition of organisations led the biggest coastal clean up The Spit has ever seen pulling up 180km of fishing line from under the Gold Coast Seaway and collected 41kg of fishing debris from along the rock wall. Another clean up is planned for 30th August – save the date and keep an eye out for the flyer to be released this week.
Today, I had a cuppa with Rowley from Wild Bird Rescue Gold Coast who shared many stories about his efforts in single-handedly rescuing over 1500 local birds in the last three years. The majority of the bird rescues are related to fishing debris where fishing line becomes entangled around their feet or hooks hooked through their wings.
Now I am sure you are getting a bleak picture of what my coastal background looks like… but the truth is putting the what’s out of sight is out of mind issue aside it looks relatively clean and healthy. Beautiful clean waterways, clear ocean waters and we even have a pool room of clean beach awards – many thanks to the beach sweepers every morning, the canal maintenance teams and the many community volunteers who consistently pick up litter and other debris or even rescue wildlife from entanglements. But yet again, we wouldn’t need any of the above if people just did the right thing. Imagine if the council diverted funding from city-wide beach cleaning to more festivals or community volunteers actually enjoying the Gold Coast coastal lifestyle?
The sad reality is that we do have an out of sight out of mind issue! We have a major marine and fishing debris and beach litter epidemic! Now I know this cause I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for almost 10 years and the issue isn’t going away and if anything it is getting worse. Cigarette butts flicked outside car windows, plastic bags floating across roads and trash blanketing the edges of highways.
Then this afternoon this sad reality got a little too close to me. After enjoying a walk along The Spit with my dog I sat down on my towel to enjoy the beautiful sunset. As my dog loves to dig, she started digging a hole next to me. Then all of sudden she started yelping… I looked down at her front leg and she got hooked by two fishing hooks. I couldn’t believe it! There I was enjoying my beach experience and having already picked up a small bag of fishing debris from along the beach there was more, under the sand. I really couldn’t believe it! There was a whole beach to choose where to sit and me of all people chose to sit there!
I sent a message to Rowley almost immediately and he inspired me to write this blog, cause this information needs to get to out there to inspire real action. Cause if we don’t address the symptom we’ll be forever cleaning up the coast and wasting our time and money on a never ending issue, and my poor dog might get hooked again.
I have a few solutions I want to see happen. What we need is baseline funding to support the development of such solutions, including:
– a city-wide marine debris monitoring program, approx. $30,000
– on-going scientific underwater monitoring of the Gold Coast Seaway to measure accumulation rates of fishing debris along the rock wall, approx. $30,000
– support Wild Bird Rescue Gold Coast, $10,000
– pilot a bait bag deposit scheme, $5,000
– a short film competition where finalists have their films run as TV ads to raise the issue in every lounge room
– appropriate signage to remind people that IT’S NOT OK to drop litter…
– substantially increase fines for littering to raise some revenue for the above
What’s the next step? Send an email to Council? Wait 6 more months for a response? Media? Talk with Mayor Tom Tate?
I think all the above! Watch this space!