Why is marine debris a problem?

Plastics and other marine debris are a major environmental concern and impact the value of our waterways and marine environment to different people (e.g. the tourism industry, recreational fishers etc.). Debris from either land or sea-based sources can travel huge distances and pose a navigation hazard. It can also potentially transport chemical contaminants, transport invasive species and smother, entangle and harm marine wildlife.

Plastic is the most common type of marine debris found on beaches in the Great Barrier Reef. It comprises between 50 to 90 per cent of all debris items recorded (GBRMPA, 2017); this is consistent with worldwide figures.

As marine debris has been identified by the Partnership as an important pressure on the iconic waterways and marine environments of the Mackay-Whitsunday-Isaac Region, the Partnership has committed to reporting both the problem of marine debris and the community response to cleaning it up.

Marine Debris on a beach (© Copyright CSIRO Australia)

 

The Australian Marine Debris Initiative Database

The Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) is a network of communities, schools, industries, government agencies and individuals focused on reducing the amount of marine debris washing into our oceans. The initiative includes a database, which enables volunteers and organisations who run marine debris clean-up events to collect data on what they were finding using a consistent methodology. This then means that the data can be collated into a standardised national database on marine debris.

Since 2004 more than 9 million pieces of data have been inputted into the Australian Marine Debris Database. This creates a comprehensive overview of the amount and types of marine debris that are impacting beaches around the country. Data from the AMDI makes up the majority of marine debris data reported in the 2016 report card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A 2015/16 Regional clean-up effort

The data below represents a summary of clean-up data from a number of organisations across the Mackay-Whitsunday-Isaac Region. Data is presented per Local Government Area (Mackay or Whitsunday) postcode.

Regional breakdown

Local Government AreaClean-upsItems collectedBags filledWeight (kg)VolunteersTotal hoursDistance cleaned (m)Average width of beaches (m)
Mackay LGA 3554,861N/R 5,35345372919,61035
Whitsunday LGA55162,492141110,2657882,76945,16530
Total Regional effort 90217,3531,41115,6171,2413,49864,77532.5

Land Source Sea Index (debris is categorised as originating from land or sea)

Mackay LGA

  • Land
  • Sea

Whitsunday LGA

  • Land
  • Sea

Material composition

What is our marine debris made of? See below for the breakdown across the Whitsunday and Mackay Local Government Areas.

Whitsunday average

  • Cloth
  • Foam
  • Glass & Ceramic
  • Metal
  • Other
  • Paper & Cardboard
  • Plastic
  • Rubber
  • Wood

Mackay Average

  • Cloth
  • Foam
  • Glass & Ceramic
  • Metal
  • Other
  • Paper & Cardboard
  • Plastic
  • Rubber
  • Wood

What is the data showing?

The breakdown of data per Local Government Area (LGA) shows there is a stronger regional clean-up effort in the Whitsunday region, with significantly more volunteer effort (hours plus number of volunteers) and consequently many more beaches cleaned and double the debris (in weight) removed. The data also shows that the overwhelming majority of material collected in both LGAs is plastic. Based on 2015/16 data, marine debris is more likely to be sourced from the sea in both Mackay and the Whitsundays. There was no data entered into the AMDI Database for the Isaac region in 2015/16.

Watch this space to see if the data changes for the 2016/17 reporting year and into the future.

 

2015/16 Clean-up Organisations