THE Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's (GBRMPA) Reef Guardian program has joined forces with one of the Whitsundays' most passionate advocates for marine wildlife, Libby Edge. This coming Sunday, September 30, GBRMPA's Reef Guardians will step aboard Ms Edge's Eco Barge as sponsors for the first time.
GBRMPA stewardship and stakeholder engagement director Karen Vohland said the Reef Guardian program had committed to $2500 in sponsorship to help remove marine debris from one of the Whitsundays' iconic islands, which would, in turn, help Eco Barge Clean Seas to make a difference to the health of the reef.
"This hands-on program is a local community activity with real benefits for the Great Barrier Reef," Ms Vohland said.
Ms Edge, who started the program in 2009, said it had always been her dream to have GBRMPA along for the ride.
"When I first started I said, 'If I ever have GBRMPA come on then I know I'm running this program the right way'. It's a massive moment for Eco Barge and a very positive step forward in supporting our marine debris removal program in the Whitsundays," she said.
Ms Edge said since the program's inception, Eco Barge volunteers had collected close to 63,000kg of marine debris in the Whitsunday area "that ultimately protects the whole Great Barrier Reef".
"The impact of all of this plastic and other marine debris is devastating for the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef and in particular for protected species such as turtles and other marine mammals," she said.
"It is only with support from our sponsors that we can keep our program ongoing and sustainable and I am thrilled with the support from the GBRMPA's Reef Guardian program."
Ms Edge's Eco Barge will depart for Shaw Island from Abel Point Marina on Sunday morning, returning at about 3pm.
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