Despite the gray skies and pitter-patter of rain we jumped on the Fantasea barge with the ute fully loaded and volunteers checked in with Sealink. As we crossed the stretch of water between Townsville and Magnetic Island the clouds began to part. There was no way Reef Check Australia’s first Island Scavenge was going to be anything less than a sun-filled day of good times!

Facing north, surrounded by a spectacular landscape we set up at Horseshoe Bay, not knowing how much litter was scattered around the place. Apart from the butts it seemed to be pretty pristine, and free from any litter on the large scale.

We were quickly shown the reality of this remote island with our first participant, Federico. He collected everything from metal spoons, cans and glass bottles, totaling with 89 pieces of litter. He also managed to scavenge the most coffee and ice-cream cups!

To the unsuspecting eye these items seem to be recyclable with their paper surrounds, but don’t be fooled! The paper is lined with a plastic film that coats the inside, and takes the form of a jellyfish in the water. So thanks to Lighten Up Yoga Studio here in Townsville, we have a 1-month unlimited pass to hand over to Federico for keeping them out of the bay.

From blow-up pillows to bags of carbon fiber, there were all kinds of weird and wacky items scavenged. One we couldn’t get our head around was a packaged Gillette Razor and a full can of foam. Fortunately, Guy McCutchan found these sitting neatly together in the estuary behind Horseshoe Bay before they could flow into the Bay. For this odd discovery he has landed himself a 6-month pass to Reef HQ Aquarium! 

There were a whole heap of trails scavenged, rocks scoured and remote locations reached with bags and gloves by our keenest scavengers. Savannah Martin made it over to Rocky Bay on her motorbike and collected 226 pieces of litter. For this she has scored both the Trail Blazer and Best Snap prizes for capturing her epic effort. We hope she has some mates to join her on a paddleboard experience with In The Loop and for an eco adventure of the Island with Tropicana Tours!

Cigarette butts are the number one item collected during cleanups and this Saturday on Magnetic Island it was no different. 1 butt contaminates the surrounding 50L of water with toxins, so we’re stoked that 1,296 butts collected during the Scavenge aren’t able to escape into the ocean. A massive effort by Freek who collected 529 of these from the beach, and who can now take a mate to enjoy the Cowboys match on the 3rd of June.

During the day we were treated to the tunes of some local musicians, Ben Vernon and Jeff Buckley. The Howling Swamp Dogs played a toe tapping blend of guitar and harmonica which made the afternoon all the more enjoyable. Mark Hillman then graced the stage with an inspiring acoustic set and vocals to match. Big thanks to these three for creating the funky vibes!

The music must have charmed a couple of our participants who went above and beyond. We had Jasmine collect 512 pieces of litter including a whole heap of glass from the Bay. For her awesome effort she has scored a 1-day snorkel trip with Adrenaline Dive. Another legend, Ashley came in second with 226 pieces of litter and for this has scored a sunset cruise for two on Big Mama Sail Yacht!

Fishing wire, fishing lures, fishing rods were amongst the pile of litter scavenged on Saturday. Thanks to Caroline there is now over 100m of wire that is no longer sitting in the rocks at Horseshoe Bay and capable of wrapping itself around coral. The crew at Pleasure Dive will be glad to see it gone with fishing line being the most common item found on the reefs of Magnetic Island. They have a Scuba Experience voucher with Caroline’s name on it… Well done!

It’s important to see all this junk being collected off our beaches but what’s even better is not using it in the first place. We can start to avoid single-use packaging by shopping at places like The Source Bulk Foods in North Ward. Here, you bring your jars and bags and fill them up with all kinds of grains, nuts, detergents and more. We have a $100 voucher to give away to the legend that collected the most straws… so thank you Sam Smith for the epic job on the straw front. We hope you fill many a jar with this wicked prize!

An incredible number of prizes were donated by local businesses to get everyone Scavenging up a storm. Dance North Academy wanted to see kids doing their bit. We had one of our incredible volunteers Stella (who runs local pottery classes) facilitate the Trashy Arts Corner, where kids could get creative with the litter collected on our marine creature stencils. We were super impressed with Nik and Lukas creative flair of the crab, so we’d like to pass on a double pass to the ‘Rainbow Vomit’ production showing this Friday and Saturday!

Clearly, the Scavenge was an epic success. Overall 60 pairs of hands collected 115kg of litter, including 32kg of recycling and 1,296 butts. We had over a 100kg of pre-loved clothes, books, toys and more that were donated by the local community.

A massive thanks to everyone involved! Without the dedication on the day from our incredible crew of volunteers sorting and recording data for Tangaroa Blue’s Australian Marine Debris Database and local support from Magnetic Island Nature Care Association, this event would not have been possible. In particular NQ Dry Tropics and the National Landcare Programme for the financial support.

If you missed the action on Saturday, well you’re in luck! Reef Check Australia will be hosting a second Scavenge as part of Ecofiesta on Sunday the 4th June, so we’ll see you there! 

This event was hosted by Reef Check Australia and Seaside Scavenge and supported by NQ Dry Tropics through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme. Additional support through Townsville City Council.