Over one thousand Queenslanders pitched in to help the Reef by removing seven tonnes of marine debris and collecting 70,000 pieces of Reef health information through the sixth annual ReefBlitz event in partnership with the first annual ReefClean GBR Clean-up event.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Community Partnerships Director Jenn Loder said Queenslanders are known for lending a hand when the need arises, and it was inspiring to see volunteers give 5,000 hours of their time to help look after their local marine and coastal environments.

“The Great Barrier Reef is an irreplaceable global icon that is in our identity as Queenslanders, so with the Reef under increasing pressure from local and global threats, there has never been a more important time for us all to take action.” Ms Loder said.

“In my role as the Reef Citizen Science Alliance Coordinator, it is inspiring to continue to see the incredible participation and partnerships that unite for this event. This year, over forty organisations teamed-up to gather over 70,000 pieces of Reef health information that can be used by Reef scientists, managers and communities to improve the health of the Reef.

“This information ranges from turtle behaviour to signs of stress on corals and information on marine debris hot spots so that rubbish can be stopped at its source.

“The Reef spans an area larger than New Zealand, so the information collected through citizen science programs can help fill information gaps and increase what we know about the coastal and marine environment. For example, CoralWatch, a University of Queensland initiative, was able to call on volunteers to help monitor over 1,000 corals this year from Fitzroy Island in the north to the Fraser Coast in the south.

“ReefBlitz also saw the launch of Lady Musgrave Experience’s ‘Marine Biologist for a Day’ program which helps Reef visitors to get involved in citizen science by collecting reef health data through CoralWatch and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef programs.

“Central to this year’s ReefBlitz were the ReefClean GBR Clean-up events which saw Queenslanders teaming up to remove seven tonnes of marine debris from our coasts and oceans.

“It took a broad range of people from all along the coast to achieve this amazing result; from a class of horticulture students from Cairns TAFE who cleaned up Clifton Beach to diving enthusiasts who removed rubbish from the waters around Fitzroy and Hook Islands.

“Almost two tonnes were removed from Hinchinbrook Island with the help of 130 volunteers.”

Tangaroa Blue Foundation founder and CEO Heidi Taylor said with more than eight million tonnes of plastic entering the ocean every year marine debris has become one of the major environmental issues worldwide.

“More than 77 Australian species are at risk from ingestion and entanglement by marine debris including threatened turtles, seabirds and even corals.” Ms Taylor said.

“The ReefClean project has enabled Tangaroa Blue and our partner organisations to lock in clean-up activities across the GBR for the next five years.

“During 2019 it has enabled us to tackle some of the most impacted sites removing tonnes of marine debris, as well as work with communities on source reduction projects, that aim at stopping the flow of litter into our oceans.”

This year’s ReefBlitz ran through the month of October and was supported by members and partners of the Reef Citizen Science Alliance, with host Conservation Volunteers Australia. The ReefBlitz 2019 event series was supported by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation who, together with Boeing, was a founding partner of both the Alliance and ReefBlitz.

The Reef Clean project is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and delivered by Tangaroa Blue Foundation in partnership with Conservation Volunteers Australia, AUSMAP, Capricornia Catchments, Eco Barge Clean Seas, OceanWatch Australia, Reef Check Australia and South Cape York Catchments.

Lady Musgrave Experience’s ‘Marine Biologist for a Day’ program is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.