After 2 days of transit in the High Seas, the vessel and its crew arrived successfully to East Diamnond islet for their first clean in the Great Coral Sea. This beautiful coral environment, located 400km offshore, has little to no visitation from the outside world. These habitats do not experience any type of fishing or tourism, and are one of the last reef systems before the Pacific opens up to New Caledonia.
After collecting debris at East Diamond, the crew carried on for the next 3 days for a beach clean at the Lehu reefs – Lorna cay, and studies of Observatory cay and Magdeline. However, despite the fact that the Coral Sea and its reefs are considered to be some of the most distinctive and undisturbed places in the world, the team discovered that each area was highly polluted with a variety of debris- our plastic waste.
Surfrider's Andy Gray describes the first clean of the voyage..
“There were sea birds by the thousands, with hundreds protecting eggs during breeding season, along with thriving marine life and crustaceans. For such a remote location however, the amount of marine debris was overwhelming. Shipping buoys, ropes and drums were among the most common items, but the majortity of our beach hauls consisted of plastic bottles, plastic containers and secondary micro plastics- which was made worse when we found plastic riddled throughout the birds nesting areas.”
These findings are very concerning as these reefs and islands not only provide a habitat for many different types of sea birds, but also serve as important refugees for ocean giants, such as whale sharks and big game fish, and a variety of vulnerable and endangered species of fish, mammals and turtles. It is Surfrider's hope that with effort's like this, along with other organizations around the world, we will be able to improve and preserve these pristine habitats in order to protect the ocean, waves, beaches and organisms that we love so dearly.
In the meantime, while Andy and the crew continue on their voyage, stay tuned here for live updates, photos and stories of their journey!
Photos Week 1: