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Why run a beach clean up? Australian marine debris initiative

Updated: Aug 24, 2019

Environmental Divers are proud to be an affiliate of the Australian Marine Debris Initiative. 18,000 individual pieces of plastic are estimated to float in every square kilometre of ocean. Six million tonnes of rubbish finds its way into the world’s oceans every year. Three times as much rubbish is dumped into the world’s oceans annually as the weight of fish caught.

Most people agree that this horrifying amount of marine debris is unsightly, but not everyone is aware of the huge impact that it has on our marine life and seabirds.

Once discarded into the ocean, plastics can take hundreds of years to breakdown into a fine plastic powder

77 Australian marine species have been shown to be impacted by marine life, many of which are killed by this floating rubbish. This includes over twenty Australian endangered species including the humpback and blue whales, Tristan albatross and all species of turtles.

Marine debris can cause entanglement, getting caught around necks, flukes, flippers and fins. The plastics and ropes cannot stretch as the animal or bird grows which can cause painful infections, amputations, strangulation and ultimately death.

Even the smallest pieces of plastic and cigarette butts can have fatal results. Seabirds such as albatrosses can pick up these pieces, thinking they are food.

They can then be regurgitated to feed their young chicks who cannot digest plastic. Turtles and other marine life may eat plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish. The ingestion of plastics can physically block the digestive system, causing pain, internal injuries, suppression of the immune and reproductive systems and death.

Once discarded into the ocean, plastics can take hundreds of years to breakdown into a fine plastic powder, but will always remain in the marine environment. Plastic bottles can take up to 450 years and mono-filament fishing line up to 600 years, the cigarette butt, up to 10 years. This gives the marine debris an opportunity to kill time and time again as it remains in the food chain.

What happens to the data we record?

Once a clean up event is complete, the coordinator returns the data sheet to the office of Tangaroa Blue by email or post. The data is entered into the Australian Marine Debris Database which is used by local, state and national government as well as industry and communities to identify the types and amounts of marine debris impacting each site, and then to find practical ways of preventing those items from ending up in the ocean in the first place.

The data can also be used to gauge levels of improvement or worsening of our marine pollution problem.

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