News and Events

Taking Action To Reduce Marine Debris

Blog Post - Taking Action To Reduce Marine Debris

Sea Turtles confuse floating plastic bags with jellyfish - their favourite food. Turtles, Seals, Whales, Dolphins and Dugongs allget hopelessly entangled in floating nets discarded by commercial fishing operations. Once trapped within their deadly grasp, they can drift for days before slowly drowning.

Sea Birds dive for plastic they’ve mistaken for fish. Endangered Sharks like the Grey Nurse and Whale Shark often mistake marine debris for potential food or unwittingly scoop up plastic while feeding… and all sorts of other fish that force water through their gills in order to breathe are increasingly at risk to microscopic plastic debris.

Over 800 species worldwide are impacted by marine debris. They need our help to survive a crisis hidden beneath the waves. More effective than cleaning up beaches is preventing rubbish from ending up there in the first place. 

The Australian Marine Debris Database was created to enable volunteers and organisations who run beach clean-up events to also collect data on what they are finding with a consistent methodology, so it can be collated into a standardised national database on marine debris. Since 2004 more than 11 million pieces of data have been entered into the database, creating a comprehensive overview of what amounts and types of marine debris are impacting beaches around Australia.

Now, Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife is partnering with Tangaroa Blue Foundation to fund a project aimed at getting the most impact out of this invaluable data. The joint initiative, launched during Keep Australia Beautiful Week, will provide a critical link between the communities that submit data, and research and industry partners to help guide the creation, implementation and monitoring of debris source reduction plans.

FNPW funding will enable Tangaroa Blue to further analyse the extensive Australian Marine Debris Database, and work closely with communities, industry and government to address the problem of marine debris, through the creation of source reduction plans. These might include improved infrastructure such as rubbish bins, anti-littering education campaigns or changing polluting practices.

Some of the litter reduction programs already developed as a result of the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) include:

  • A ban on plastic strapping bands in Western Australia: Strapping bands from the lobster industry used to be a significant contributor to marine litter in WA. After the problem was identified through the AMDI the industry was contacted and eventually a legislative change banning strapping bands on vessels throughout WA.
  • Reduction of weather balloons: One hundred weather balloons used to be released every day in Australia by the Bureau of Meteorology with many of them ending up in the marine environment. Through pressure from Tangaroa Blue Foundation, an alternative material for the polystyrene target was sources, and the number of balloons release each day has been reduced.
  • Provision of rubbish bins: Tangaroa Blue Foundation collaborates with remote communities to increase the number of rubbish collection bins and community education, ultimately decreasing the amount of litter that might get washed into the ocean.

  • Tangaroa Blue Foundation is an Australian registered charity focused on the health of our marine environment, and coordinates the Australian Marine Debris Initiative, an on-ground network of volunteers, communities, organisations and agencies around the country removing and collecting data on marine debris and using that data to inform and develop source reduction plans.




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