This month's guest contributor is Heidi Taylor from Tangaroa Blue ...
Australian Marine Debris Initiative
Over the last 11 years I’ve seen a lot of marine debris and pollution washing up all around Australia’s beaches. In some places it is metres thick, in other places so small that you can’t even see it – but one thing is certain, most of it is plastic and unless something drastic changes, there’s going to be more and more of it in our oceans.
Marine debris is defined as any man-made item that ends up, either deliberately or accidentally into any waterway or marine environment. Internationally there’s a heap of policies and laws to prevent this from occurring – so why does over 8 million metric tonnes still end up in the world’s oceans every year?
Most of the time marine debris actually starts from a land based source – estimates of up to 80% makes its way to the coast via drains, streams, rivers or beach litter. The remaining 20% comes from shipping, fishing or ocean currents which can transport floating items like plastic bottles and ghost nets thousands of kilometres. Once in the water, marine debris starts to break up into smaller pieces – photodegrading not biodegrading. A plastic crate or bottle, for example, starts to slowly fragment into microscopic pieces – and just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean that plastic powder miraculously dissolved into thin air. And this growing load of microplastics in the marine environment is what is starting to really concern researchers, as at that small size plastics can be ingested by pretty much any living organism.
So how does that affect you? Well those tiny pieces of microplastic are also packed with chemicals that can leach into tissues of anything that eats them, and then bio accumulate up the food chain – where we are sitting at the top of – the end result is still being studied – but some of those toxins have been shown to be endocrine disruptors which affect fertility.
It all sounds a bit doom and gloom, however as huge as an issue this is, it really comes down to individuals’ choices – put your rubbish in the bin, reduce the amount of plastic you use, consume with care – don’t give your cash to companies selling crap that breaks and gets chucked out in a couple of months or has 6 layers of packaging on it, and help out with clean-up efforts. All pretty easy solutions! In fact we’ve got one for the Queenslanders right now to sign up to – The Great Barrier Reef Clean-up will be held over the weekend of October 24th & 25th at 12 sites from Cooktown to Bundaberg – to register visit www.tangaroablue.org. If you can’t make that event, there are all the resources to run your own event available on the website as well – if everyone in Australia just picked up 3 items of debris, it would equal 69,000,000 less pieces of rubbish in our environment in one hit – pretty bit improvement with such little effort – get involved – and help keep our oceans healthy!
Waterways Champions of the month Darwin Harbour Clean-Up Partners
A seafood industry initiative, for the past six years the annual Darwin Harbour Clean Up has bought together government and non-government agencies, private businesses and community groups for a weekday clean-up activity.
The seafood industry has long been involved in collecting rubbish (including lost or discarded foreign fishing gear) from the sea and remote coastlines of the areas in which they earn their livelihood. For them, Darwin Harbour Clean-Up provides an opportunity to partner with numerous stakeholders to remove rubbish from a much-loved, visible and accessible harbour, while highlighting the broader issue of rubbish in the marine environment in general.
Currently involving up to 40 major supporters and participants, the majority of the Darwin Harbour Clean-Up partners have strong links with the marine environment; representing research, fisheries management, water quality, compliance, search and rescue, tourism, transport, environment, indigenous ranger groups, oil and gas industry, seafood retailers and wholesalers, aquaculture and the professional fishing industry.
Darwin Harbour Clean-Up partners are committed to promoting the sustainable use of the marine environment. The annual event is an opportunity to come together to promote that commitment, remove rubbish from Darwin Harbour and encourage strategies to reduce the amount of rubbish entering the sea.
Around Australia Marine NRM profile
NSW north coast floodplain projects
North Coast Local Land Services is implementing two coastal floodplains projects in 2015-16 to improve estuarine water quality and health (Richmond, Nambucca, Macleay & Hastings Rivers). The projects will provide financial assistance, expert advice, education and facilitation services for property and landscape scale projects by engaging with farmers, drainage unions, community groups, local and state government agencies.
The projects are assisting with activities such as:
Providing financial assistance for fencing to permanently exclude cattle from areas such as back swamps, estuarine riparian zones (mangroves, salt marsh and other riparian vegetation) and to allow re-vegetation of riparian zones.
Encouraging farmers to adopt acid sulfate soil landscape best management practices to improving soil condition health
Improving management of groundwater (flood gate and drainage channel design) to limit acid production and removal of old floodgate structures to improve fish passage in estuarine creeks.
Facilitating the development of estuarine wetland rehabilitation projects, and
Educating about Acid Sulfate Soils, Black water and estuarine aquatic health.
These projects are supported by North Coast Local Land Services through funding from the National Landcare Program and Catchment Action NSW.
Max Osborne (North Coast Local Land Services) Image: Fish kills in North Coast estuaries from poor water quality prompts floodplain rehabilitation projects - Black water at Belmore River - Macleay Estuary Feb 2015.
Brad Warren from OceanWatch talks to 2NUR FM Newcastle about Oceanwatch and the seafood industry and its challenges.
We were all amazed last weekend when we heard about the generosity of Katherine Sabbath and BlackStar Pastry chefs based at Rosebery and Newtown donating sale proceeds of a special cake to OceanWatch. These beautiful and delicious marine themed cakes were created with 'Coconut mousse cake wrapped in patterned jaconde, with coconut custard apple agar jelly, passion fruit gel and white chocolate ganache, topped with an ocean blue white chocolate mirror glaze, macaron clam and pandan sugar glass" superb!!
The Northern Agricultural Region (NAR) is very fortunate to be called home to two of Australia’s 15 biodiversity hotspots. However, as we move from the land to the sea, you would be surprised to find the amazing biodiversity under the sea.
Some particularly popular locations include the Houtman Abrolhos islands, where charismatic dolphins, sea lions and seabirds are often be found.
image: Philippa Schmucker
Williamtown RAAF contamination
250 angry residents who had just listened to one expert after the next explain that little was known about the potential health impacts of perfluorooctane sulphonate and perfluorooctanoic acid that had polluted the groundwater around Williamtown RAAF base.
The public meeting at Stockton RSL was also told there was still a long way to go before the full extent of the contamination, contained in aqueous film forming foam previously used at the RAAF base, was properly understood. More...