After three years of research, in a landmark partnership between the corporate, NGO and the research sectors we are pleased to announce that TeachWild have released the final report on marine debris. The report is a three year synopsis of the Earthwatch-Shell-CSIRO National Marine Debris Program.
Recently, global attention has been drawn to issue of marine debris by the discovery of the North Pacific Garbage Patch, an area of sea the same size as Queensland, with hundreds of thousands of pieces of rubbish for every square kilometre.
After surveying nearly 200 beaches along the Australian coastline, it came as a surprise to many to find that most of the coastal debris in Australia is from Australian sources, and is centred around large metropolitan areas. The blame can no longer be placed on “others”. The problem is home grown with consumer behaviour and illegal dumping being the leading causes.
The vast majority of this rubbish is plastic, which can take over 450 years to degrade. This rubbish is a key threat to marine habitats and wildlife in Australia. In the Gulf of Carpentaria alone over 5,000 turtles became entangled in discarded fishing gear.It is not only entanglement that is an issue. Approximately 40% of seabirds and a third of turtles have ingested marine debris globally.
Thankfully, the report found that there is hope on the horizon. Policies can reduce the problem and incentives are effective. South Australia’s deposit scheme has proved highly successful — the state’s waste has two thirds fewer beverage containers when compared with other states.
Possibly the most important legacy the program leaves is the influence it has had on teachers and students. Scientific skills and understanding have been improved, whilst motivation has rocketed for many teachers and lifted their enthusiasm and capacity for teaching real-life science. A profound impact was made on many of the thousands of student participants as they found out firsthand how much of our plastic waste ends up in our marine environments. The students have been inspired to change their litter habits, reduce their single use plastic consumption, hold fundraising events for marine research and are motivated to engage in marine science.
See the full report here.