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Marine debris solutions building momentum

Disposable drink bottles topped the list of rubbish collected by students at Old Bar Beach this month as part of an education project undertaken by Hunter Local Land Services to raise awareness of marine debris.

Students from Old Bar Public School collected a total of 80kg debris including 219 glass and plastic bottles, and aluminium cans from a 1km stretch of shoreline.

Plastic shopping, ice and dog poo bags, along with cigarette butts, and plastic food packaging also scored high on the list of items removed.

These items could easily enter nearby waterways where local marine life may choke on plastic bags or become entangled in plastic or fishing line leading to serious injury or death. This can impact on our local marine environment and also cause problems for the local fishing industry.

A group of 90 students joined Heidi Taylor, Managing Director of the Tangaroa Blue Foundation, a registered charity focused on the health of our marine environment, to undertake the clean-up.

The data on the rubbish collected will be entered into the Australian Marine Debris Database.

'The database can help us to identify the types and amounts of marine debris and litter that are impacting specific coastal sites, and can then be used to track those items back to the source,' said Heidi.

Old Bar Public School plans to regularly clean up and survey the beach as part of a regional marine debris monitoring program being developed by Tangaroa Blue for Hunter Local Land Services (LLS).

The program will link volunteers, government, community organisations and industry groups that regularly collect data from beach and river cleanups and help develop strategies to stop items initially being released into the environment.

The beach clean-up was one of numerous initiatives undertaken this month as part of the LLS marine debris educationproject, including:.

  • Students from Manning Valley Anglican College and Taree West State Primary School attended a presentation by Heidi on how marine debris impacts wildlife, and how individuals can reduce litter from ending up in our waterways and the ocean.
  • Staff from Greater Taree City Council and rangers from Taree Indigenous Development and Employment (TIDE) participated in a workshop on how to integrate marine debris data collection into regular works and maintenance schedules.
  • A presentation and screening of 'Bag It', an award winning environmental documentary, took place at Old Bar Primary School.

'As the sources of marine debris are so varied, we need to engage the broader community as a whole, and these initiatives provided a great opportunity to talk to the community and government on ways of improving the health of our marine and coastal environment,' said Heidi.

'It was exciting to see students and community members so enthusiastic about this environmental issue, with great questions and conversation after the activities.'

If you or your community group would like to take part in marine debris surveys, please contact your local Hunter Local Land Services office.

Contact Jillian Ayre (Mon, Tues, Wed) 02 4938 4932 or Maree Whelan (Thurs, Fri) 02 4938 4932 or Mobile: 0418 960 817.