CSIRO releases TeachWild marine debris survey results

CSIRO releases TeachWild marine debris survey results

“By garnering the information needed to identify sources and hotspots of debris, we can better develop effective solutions to tackle marine debris,” CSIRO scientist Dr Denise Hardesty

“Plastic on the coast is ours”

Marine ecosystems worldwide are affected by ‘marine debris’, human-made rubbish mostly made up of plastics.  Marine debris includes consumer items such as glass or plastic bottles, cans, bags, balloons, rubber, metal fibreglass, and other manufactured materials that end up in our ocean.

On Monday, after three years of research, CSIRO released a new report that sheds light on the source of Australian coastal debris and its impact on our marine friend; alarmingly, we are the biggest culprits.

As the largest and most comprehensive research project of its kind, this survey forms an integral part of TeachWild, a marine debris research and education program developed by Earthwatch in partnership with CSIRO and Shell Australia’s National Social Investment Program.

The Research Findings

CSIRO scientist Denise Hardesty says her team surveyed sites approximately every 100 km along the Australian coastline.

“We found about three-quarters of the rubbish along the coast is plastic. Most is from Australian sources, not the high seas, with debris concentrated near cities,” said Dr Hardesty, dispelling the myth that Australians are not responsible for the majority of coastal impacts caused by marine debris.

The report also highlights the increasing toll our rubbish is having on marine wildlife, both locally and on a global scale, with approximately one-third of sea turtles and nearly half of all seabirds globally likely to have ingested some form of marine debris.

Other species, including whales, dolphins, crocodiles, fish and crabs, are also at risk of death or maiming due to entanglement by plastics and other debris.

Preventing this debris from entering the marine environment in the first place is the most effective way to reduce and mitigate its harmful effects. This research demonstrates that, through the collaboration of scientists, industry partners, coastal managers and citizen scientists, we can effectively detail the sources and hotspots of marine debris in order to develop new solutions to tackle our coastal crisis.

A complete summary of the research findings can be found here. The full report may be downloaded here.

Media Links:

CSIRO media release

ABC News article, “Plastic pollution choking Australian waters and killing wildlife: CSIRO study”, 15 September 2014

The Conversation, “The oceans are full of our plastic – here’s what we can do about it”

The Sydney Morning Herald, “Dumping is trashing Australian beaches, says CSIRO report”