Garbage On Our High Seas Is Homegrown, Say Scientists


We’re clogging our own coastlines with marine debris according to a new study that shows the majority of litter is washed in from Australian sources, rather than the high seas.

Marine debris is a huge problem for marine biodiversity and the mountains of rubbish – glass, plastic bottles, cans, bags, balloons, ropes, hooks and everything you can think of – can seriously threaten wildlife along our coastlines.

It means Australians must be more careful about disposing their waste properly to ensure it doesn’t litter the ocean and harm wildlife, and our own health. 

For the past three years, the CSIRO have undertaken an extensive survey of marine debris on Australian coastlines developed by Earthwatch in conjunction with Shell.

CSIRO researchers have visited over 170 sites across Australia. Most of the debris, they’ve found, is plastic, and comes from Australian sources, rather than overseas rubbish transported by ocean currents.

The findings are in a CSIRO report released today.

CSIRO scientist Denise Hardesty said the study will help develop effective solutions to deal with the problem.

“We found about three-quarters of the rubbish along the coast is plastic,” Dr Hardesty said in a statement.

“It is from Australian sources, not the high seas, with debris concentrated near cities.”

This plastic waste smothers coral reefs and threatens wildlife, like seabirds and turtles.

“Approximately one third of marine turtles around the world have likely ingested debris, and this has increased since plastic production began in the 1950s,” Dr Hardesty said.

“We also estimate between 5,000 and 15,000 turtles have been killed in the Gulf of Carpentaria after becoming ensnared by derelict fishing nets, mostly originating from overseas.”

The study also found 43 percent of sea birds had ingested plastic.

Because cleaning up the garbage patches of marine debris in the world’s oceans is not practical, scientists believe the best solution is to limit the amount of rubbish that ends up in the seas.

"By garnering the information needed to identify sources and hotspots of debris, we can better develop effective solutions to tackle marine debris," Dr Hardesty said.

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