On Sunday 5th of August 2018, while on Operation Reef Defence, the crew of Sea Shepherd’s flagship vessel M/Y Steve Irwin who were onboard their small Delta support boat spotted a plastic shopping bag floating in waters approximately 500 metres off the Mackay coast, by the harbour. The crew were on their way to join the Mackay community in opposition of the Adani coal mine, in defence of the Great Barrier Reef.

Despite attempts to retrieve the bag via a grappling hook, Indigenous Githabul man and Steve Irwin Quartermaster crew, Jambi, jumped in to remove the bag which was found to be a Coles Better Bag. Within the past month Coles has backflipped several times continuing to supply customers with free Coles plastic Better Bags, despite outrage from the community.

Steve Irwin Quartermaster, Jambi stated, “So I’m Jarmbi, crew member of the Steve Irwin. We’re just on our way to a press conference, and we see this (bag) floating in the water. We just saw plenty of whales coming through here. This is just not far out of the port in the harbour in Mackay. So Coles Better Bags, you got to do better again hey. Let’s make sure that this doesn’t end up in the stomach of the whale or in the stomach of the turtles. This is the sort of thing that we’re very, very passionate about and we definitely need to see less of this. Thank you.”

Sea Shepherd Australia, Managing Director, Jeff Hansen states, “Even though these Coles better bags have only been around a short time, already we are seeing them in our local marine environment, with the potential to kill whales as many whales globally have washed ashore starving due to their stomachs being choked with plastic bags. What’s also a big concern is that the red and white colour Coles branding on the bag has faded to a pale yellow, meaning dye is leaking into our precious and fragile marine environment.”

“There is nothing better about Coles better bags, they take longer to break up, they are already ending up in our marine environment and on a collision path with our precious friends of the sea, be that whales, dolphins or turtles. It’s time that Coles put our marine life and oceans first.”

“Sea Shepherd is calling on all Australians to call Coles Customer Service on 1800 061 562 to voice their opposition to Coles supplying free plastic bags, for our oceans, for our marine life and for our children.”

In 2017, volunteers from Sea Shepherd Australia’s Marine Debris Campaign which hosts beach and river clean-ups around the country, removed over 14,000 plastic bags.

Video can be viewed here:

Adam Burling, Sea Shepherd Australia