Injury and fatality to vertebrate marine life caused by ingestion of, or entanglement in, harmful marine debris has been listed as a key threatening process under the Australian Government's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

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Caring For Our Country

The Caring for our Country project "Reducing the incidence and threat of marine debris in the Whitsunday region" will undertake many activities that respond to the Australian Government’s Marine Debris Threat Abatement Plan, which is focused on preventing, removing and mitigating the threat of marine debris. Our project will address each of these issues through (1) Reducing marine debris; (2) Understanding marine debris; and (3) Preventing marine debris. 

After an amazing 10 months of project activities, the Caring for our Country project was completed in June 2012. Some of the interesting results and findings from the project activities included:

• A total of 25,117 kilograms of marine debris and land-based litter was removed from the Whitsunday region during project activities.

• 484 pieces of litter were prevented from becoming marine debris through the storm water drain filter trial, with this trial indicating that the inclusion of filters on all storm water drains along the Airlie Beach Main Street could prevent in excess of 27,104 pieces of rubbish washing into the marine environment every year.

• The drift card study highlighted that debris from the Hay Point shipping channel has the potential to travel as far as the Whitsunday Islands, while debris from Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island travels in a northerly direction, impacting local islands and mainland locations as it leaves the immediate area.

• The monitoring trips to the five hotspot locations indicated that the marine debris on Saba Bay (Hook Island) and Grimston Point (mainland) is returning at a rate in excess of 2 kgs per day!

• The 10 most common items of marine debris were (1) Bottle tops/lids; (2) Polystyrene foam; (3) Shoes; (4) Plastic drink bottles; (5) Soft plastics; (6) Bleach/cleaner bottles; (7) Rope; (8) Skincare bottles; (9) Boat pieces; and (10) Plastic food packaging. These are therefore priority items to focus prevention strategies to decrease the incidence of marine debris.

• 64% of the collected marine debris may have originated from multiple sources, including both land-based and ocean-based activities. However, items relating to Shipping/Commercial Fishing/International accounted for almost 25% of the collected marine debris, with items relating to Recreational Boating/Fishing/Tourism and Industrial/Urban activities being relatively minimal.

• 70% of the marine debris items that may have originated from multiple sources were Food and Beverage related items.

The project activities included the participation of 206 different volunteers, with 34 volunteers being involved in more than one activity and one volunteer being involved on 17 different occasions throughout the project. The activities also obtained the involvement of 15 community groups and 25 local businesses.

We would therefore like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to everyone that participated and provided support to make each of the project activities possible.

Marine debris removed from the
Whitsunday islands since July 2009
= 174,764 kilograms