CLEAN FREEDOM: Eco Barge Clean Seas Whitsunday volunteers releasing rescue turtle Willow last week. INSET: Some of the 597kg debris collected from Hook Island.
CLEAN FREEDOM: Eco Barge Clean Seas Whitsunday volunteers releasing rescue turtle Willow last week. INSET: Some of the 597kg debris collected from Hook Island. SeaShell Photo Art

Willow's swimming free: plus nearly 600kg litter cleaned up

EXACTLY 597kg of litter was removed and a sea turtle released back into Whitsunday waters this week thanks to a team of passionate local volunteers.

The work of Airlie Beach not-for-profit environmental charity Eco Barge Clean Seas, founding chairwoman Libby Edge said it was the "perfect weather” that sparked three clean-up trips at the weekend.

"We emailed our band of over 1000 registered volunteers and filled each barge trip in only a few short hours,” she said.

"To date, we have removed over 179,000kg of marine debris with the help of over 5000 volunteers and have also cared for over 84 sick or injured sea turtles.”

Impacted_Beach cleaned up by Eco Barge Clean Seas Whitsundays on Hook Island
Impacted Hook Island Beach cleaned up by Eco Barge Clean Seas on the weekend. SeaShell_Photo_Art

A large adult green sea turtle named Willow, who had been successfully rehabilitated at Eco Barge's Whitsunday Turtle Rescue Centre, was released from South Molle Island before clean-up activities began on the third day.

Eco Barge Clean Seas project coordinator Fiona Broadbent said Willow came into care suffering from float - a condition that causes air to be trapped inside the gut, rendering him unable to dive for his food.

"Willow responded amazingly well to the care from our trained turtle team and lost his float rather quickly. Our whole team is so happy to see him swim free once again,” she said.

Through a partnership with Coca-Cola Australia, Eco Barge has been able to continue three core programs for 2018, including the Marine Debris Removal Program, Clean Streets and Creeks program.

Hook Island Clean up Eco barge Clean Seas
Eco barge Clean Seas clean up volunteers on the weekend.

"This prevents local litter entering the waterways and providing care for sick or injured sea turtles for the Mackay and Whitsunday Region with the Whitsunday Turtle Rescue Centre,” Ms Broadbent said.

Ms Edge said she was extremely proud of what Eco Barge Clean Seas had been able to achieve to date and the future direction of its grassroots approach.

"We are excited to continue to protect our local marine life and environment with the support from the volunteers and our partner Coca-Cola Australia,” she said.

Coca-Cola Australia's senior public affairs and sustainability manager Sarah Prestwood said the company was passionate about the work Eco Barge Clean Seas was doing to protect marine life and the environment.

"As part of Coca-Cola's packaging vision, we are proud to provide funding to support Eco Barge's clean-up initiative in the Whitsundays, removing marine litter to protect sea life around the Great Barrier Reef,” she said