Marine debris

Overview of Urban System Repair Program Activities

Working to reduce marine debris through the installation of Gross Pollutant Traps

Cannonvale Beach Foreshore Reserve and its associated shallow marine waters with known areas of healthy seagrass ecosystems provide food and sanctuary for dugongs and marine turtle (MSES, Dugong Protection Zone, VMA essential habitat and NCA listed).

Several urbanised creeks flow into this marine reserve depositing litter, sediment and other pollutants (e.g. phosphorous, nitrogen, hydrocarbons). All threaten the integrity of this ecosystem and indirectly/directly impact dependent marine species. Three gross pollutant traps (litter traps) were installed within Bicentennial Park.

The sites at Bicentennial Park were selected based on upstream influence and records of high gross pollutant outfall. Each trap is designed to intercept marine debris and pollutants and prevent future deposition into the marine reserve. Whitsunday Regional Council has adopted the structures and associated maintenance requirements. Maintenance requirements, costs and trends will be reviewed annually, as will the effectiveness of the primary treatment tool and its subsequent future application to suitable sites within the other regions.

Improving aquatic habitat through fishway installation and erosion management

Modification of the lower Lagoons Creek catchment (Mackay) and its associated waterways has resulted in sediment deposition, exotic weed proliferation and subsequently, fragmented the creek into sections of discontinuous waterway. Loss of instream connectivity impacts aquatic species migration.  Installation of a three-ridge rock ramp fishway will ensure the successful passage of a range of fish size classes over a range of flow regimes.  Additionally two erosion control measures were installed to mitigate the cumulative impacts of increased urban development and agricultural farming practices.


A fish way and several logs were keyed into Lagoon Creek to reduce erosion, stabilise banks, provide habitat, increase aquatic connectivity increase roughness and reduce velocities. Increasing structural complexity e.g. riffles and refuge areas and introduced woody debris will improve the migration of important commercial, recreational and indigenous fish species (e.g. Barramundi and Tarpon) upstream into freshwater nursery habitats.

Improving access to protect our coastlines

Coastal vegetation plays a fundamental role in dune stabilisation and is easily damaged in high recreational use beaches where pedestrian access is unrestricted. Coastal management plans written in partnership with Mackay Regional Council direct the prioritisation of access management projects within the region. Collaboration between Mackay Regional Council and Reef Catchments has allowed for the installation of numerous stairways, stair ladders and fence lines within coastal zones of Seaforth, Blacks Beach and Far Beach. Formalised access tracks will direct foot traffic towards permanent access points allowing previously disturbed native vegetation to regenerate on the dune systems. The condition of regenerating vegetation will be monitored over time to provide evidence of the effectiveness of these access management activities.

Involving the community in protecting our urban coastal environments

23 Clean Streets and Creeks events have been held in Airlie Beach by EcoBarge Clean Seas Inc. The clean ups target urban hot spots for gross pollutants. The idea behind this program is to increase community awareness and involvement to prevent land based litter from entering the marine environment.
Key outcomes include:

  • removal of land based litter from urban coastal environments (and prevention of marine debris)
  • community engagement activities to raise awareness of the impacts of urban litter and stormwater on reef water quality
  • data collection on key locations and types of litter to assist in future decisions on the best interception infrastructure of litter

More than 1500kg of debris was collected, sorted, analysed by 132 volunteers between January and June 2015.

Coastcare is an established program in the region coordinated by Reef Catchments and Mackay Regional Council. Over three Coastcare activities had been organised at Bucasia Beach under urban system repair.  Events provide participants the opportunity to learn practical skills in protecting and enhancing existing native vegetation and biodiversity through weed identification and removal.

In total 33 volunteers donated a total of 66 hours between January and June 2015. Coastcare is also funded through the National Landcare Program and additional Coastcare activities can be found HERE (add a link to Coastcare page)

Working with others to investigate feral cat numbers


Predation by feral cats is listed as a key threatening process under the EPBC Act 1999. Cats kill a wide range of native wildlife and spread disease and parasites, and for this reason are thought to reduce the distribution and abundance of many native species. In collaboration with Mackay Regional Council, Department of National Parks, Sport and Recreation, and North Queensland Bulk Ports, Reef Catchments commissioned a cat monitoring study over 250ha of coastal reserve within Slade Point.

The proposal was designed to

  • Increase community understanding around the impacts of cats on wildlife throughout Mackay (particularly urban regions that interface areas of high ecological value (HEV))
  • assist Mackay Regional Council in determining the impact of feral/domestic cats within the region
  • influence the development of a region-wide control program

Feral cats are reported to be present in large numbers within Slade Point and its surrounding reserves (Slade Point Reserve, Keeley’s Road Wetland, Keeley’s Wetland Walkabout and North Queensland Bulk Ports land), however abundance and the rate of occupancy of feral cats within these areas is relatively unknown. A monitoring program lasting 15 days and nights was executed using baited traps and remote cameras in 10 target areas. Six semi-domestic cats (i.e. roaming however ‘owned’) were recorded in this time, with some being recorded multiple times. Two cats were collared. This project achieved its aims to engage and inform the community about the impact of cats on HEV and responsible pet ownership. The report and survey findings have been submitted to Council for their consideration in order to elicit future programs. Further information can be found on Mackay Regional Councils ‘Connecting Mackay Website’.

Protecting and enhancing natural environments within urban settings through revegetation and weed control

To date, a total of 7,700 indigenous species have been planted over 4ha across five sites (Far Beach, Haliday Bay, Bucasia Beach, Sandfly Creek and Ball Bay). The focus of this revegetation is to improve and enhance the natural values of the area, ensure continued stabilisation of the dune systems and in conjunction with weed control activities improve opportunity for natural regeneration. In addition revegetation mitigates erosion, protecting the coastal buffer zone through dune stabilisation and encouragement of natural regeneration whilst also providing additional habitat for native wildlife.

Weed control has occurred over four public sites (Keeleys Road wetlands, Slade Point Reserve wetlands, Ball Bay Reserve and Seaforth Reserve) as a means to improve water quality and increase native habitat connectivity in areas that have been heavily impacted by urban coastal development. Sites were chosen based upon their impact by urban/development activities, their capacity to be treated effectively, their current trend of condition, their ecological value and their hydrological connectivity to the Great Barrier Reef. Significant weed species targeted include Hymenache (Weeds of Nat. Significance), Water Hyacinth (Class 3), Singapore Daisy and Broad-leaved Pepper Tree (Class 2). Coastal reserve areas focused on for weed control, included patches of critically endangered regional ecosystems (beach scrub (RE 8.2.2) and coastal grasslands (RE: 7.4.1) as well as other significant vegetation communities. Improving habitat connectivity is vital in such ecosystems such as beach scrub as it provides essential habitat for the listed northern quoll (EPBC Act, endangered), rusty monitor (NCA Act, of concern), and coastal sheath tail bat (NCA Act, vulnerable). 401.2 ha of weed control was conducted at five coastal sites between Jan and June 2015.

Future plans

Future plans included completion of the lower Lagoons Creek Stage 2 proposal. Completion of Stage 1 has seen the construction of a high priority fishways in a high priority urban sub catchment, with good evidence of fish migration.

Links

Reef out the rubbish!

Lots of people with cleanup bags.

Community members joined representatives from Isaac Regional Council, GBRMPA, SCLMA (Sarina Landcare Catchment Management Authority), Mackay Turtle Watch and Reef Catchments to clean up Carmilla Beach

The Reef out the Rubbish event at Carmila Beach on Saturday, March 12, was very successful with numerous bags of rubbish being removed, not to mention a kitchen sink.

Volunteers enjoyed a bbq lunch and a coastal wildlife talk.

Involving the community in protecting our urban coastal environments
EcoBarge Clean Seas Inc has held 23 Clean Streets and Creeks events in Airlie Beach. The clean-ups target urban hot spots for gross pollutants (ie urban stormwater outlets draining into Pioneer Bay). The premise of this program is to increase community awareness and involvement in preventing land based litter from entering the marine environment. Key outcomes include:

  • removal of land based litter from urban coastal environments (and prevention of marine debris),
  • community engagement activities to raise awareness of the impacts of urban litter and stormwater on reef water quality
  • data collection on key locations and types of litter to assist in future decisions on the best interception infrastructure

People doing cleanup.

Over 1500kg of debris was collected, sorted, analysed by 132 volunteers between Jan and June 2015.

Coastcare is an established program in the region coordinated by Reef Catchments and Mackay Regional Council. Over three Coastcare activities had been organised at Bucasia Beach under urban system repair. Events provide participants with the opportunity to learn practical skills in protecting and enhancing existing native vegetation and biodiversity through weed identification and removal, marine debris removal, interactive activities, games and competitions. In total 33 volunteers donated a total of 66 hours between Jan and June 2015. Coastcare is also funded through the National Landcare Program and includes additional activities.