Marine debris clean up at Macca

Marine Debris Cleanups at Macquarie Island

One of the many jobs undertaken by the hard working Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) Rangers on Macquarie Island, often with assistance from Australian Antarctic Division expeditioners, comprises of removing the many and varied items of marine debris that wash up on our coastline. The debris is collected, gathered, and then stored in marked caches around the coast for collection either by inflatable rubber boats (IRBs) as boating opportunities permit, or as slung helicopter loads during resupply. It is then returned to Australia for disposal, or useful items like marine buoys can be donated to community organisations for re-use. Tasmania PWS Ranger in Charge Chris Howard provides this story.

Macquarie Island is one of the few locations in the world that is well removed from direct contact with general life and living. The privilege of living and working in such an isolated location where the beauty and at times, the rugged brutality and rawness of nature can be observed first hand. The joy of wandering along a beach observing nature, momentarily escaping in private thoughts. Then there it is, the reminder that we are not alone, a piece of rubbish washed up on the beach. Unfortunately and too often, an unpleasant reminder of the presence of ‘lots of people elsewhere’ comes to be on our foreshores. 

Marine debris in all its shapes, sizes and forms has been recorded on Macca for years. Surveys determining quantities, composition, and possible points of origin have been undertaken. Data collected and analysis completed but still the rubbish comes — washed and blown ashore. As frustrating as this may be, at least now the rubbish can be collected and removed. Expeditioners on Macca over many, many seasons have all done their bit to help to clean-up the problem and so in the in keeping the tradition alive, this season’s team have done their bit to help clean the island shores as best as we can.

The photos below illustrate the nature of the marine debris material and the scope of the problem:

  • Rope and fuel drum: This debris was recovered a few weeks ago by IRB (see Icy News of 27 February). The rope measured 143m and weighed over 70kg.
  • Atlas: ‘with the world on his shoulders’. Station leader Ivor helping out with the rusted drum and rope recovery (previous photo) by IRB. Ably supported by the team carrying the rope.
  • Large rubber fender and buoys: Rich and Drew assessing a cache on the west coast. The large rubber fender is associated with a large ship while the smaller orange buoys are used in commercial fishing operations. Occasionally, identifying codes and markings are found on buoys. The large buoy on the left has been tracked to a fishing vessel operating from Reunion Island. Plans are afoot to recover this cache by helicopter.
  • Rangers Mel and Drew at Caroline Cove: Dedicated rangers carrying collected debris out from Caroline Cove on the rugged south western corner of Macca. Marine debris is now carried out of this remote area in back packs. The south-west is home to breeding Wandering Albatross, so possible disturbance by helicopter to recover caches is avoided.
  • Mel and “Wilson”: Mel has done an amazing job of recovering this large buoy back to Waterfall Bay hut in preparation for removal via helicopter. Big buoys like this will be recovered with plans afoot to return to Australia and donate to organisations in Tasmania to reuse.
  • Packed ready to go: The collected rubbish back to Hurd Point hut ready for removal during resupply.  
  • The usual small stuff: It’s not always big and bright. By far the most common debris collected is small stuff like plastic bottles, bits of string and the occasional tooth brush all washed ashore along with smaller plastic bits. This collection from Bauer Bay beach collected over about 2 hours.
  • Rich and Drew: All packed and ready to go. Rich smiling — perhaps Drew is reflecting on the trip ahead of them?
  • Caroline Cove: Located in the remote south-west of Macquarie Island and home to Australia’s only breeding colony of wandering albatross.
An amazing place to visit, even if it is to clean up marine debris. Hard work to carry out rubbish on your back!