Nurdles prove major hurdle for marine life

What’s a nurdle? A nurdle is a very small pellet of plastic which serves as the key material in the manufacture of plastic products. Countless billions of these small plastic balls are used each year to make nearly all our plastic products.

Accidental spillage and mishandling means that countless nurdles have ended up in our oceans, wreaking havoc on the environment.

Mistaken for food by our marine-life and seabirds, nurdles and other plastics can make animals very sick when ingested.

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Fishing waste threat to coast and pets

An increase in fishing waste left illegally on Surf Coast beaches is impacting the environment and the community with one report of a dog swallowing a hook at Anglesea this week.

GORCC Environmental Projects Coordinator Alex MacDonald and GORCC Education Coordinator Pete Crowcroft with a Seal the Loop bin in Torquay.
GORCC Environmental Projects Coordinator Alex MacDonald and GORCC Education Coordinator Pete Crowcroft with a Seal the Loop bin in Torquay.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) has noted an increase in hooks, plastic bags, fishing line and other fishing-related waste, particularly in Jan Juc and Anglesea.

GORCC Environmental Projects Coordinator Alex MacDonald said fishing waste not only impacts the coastal environment and marine animals, it is also harmful to beach users and animals.

“This major source of pollution remains on the beach until it is washed directly into the ocean.

“It is disappointing that a small number of individuals don’t respect the very environment they are drawing resources from,” she said.Marine debris image ocean health index

A visual representation of the quantity of marine debris in our precious waterways.  Image: oceanconservancy.org
A visual representation of the quantity of marine debris in our precious waterways.
Image: oceanconservancy.org

Ms. MacDonald said that dogs could be drawn to hooks left on the beach, particularly when hooks were surrounded by discarded bait remains such as sardine heads and bones.

“We have one report of a dog swallowing a hook at the Anglesea Main Beach and another report of a near miss,” she said.

While the dog affected by the hook has been given the all clear, the incident serves as a timely reminder for all beach users to discard of waste properly.

“Dispose your rubbish properly and care for the environment you came to enjoy.

“GORCC urges all anglers and fisherman to take responsibility for their fishing waste and consider the safety of humans, pets, sea creatures and the protection of our coastal environment in general,” said Ms.MacDonald.

GORCC has installed Melbourne Zoo’s specially designed ‘Seal the Loop’ bins at multiple fishing locations along the coast.

Seal the Loop bins have been placed in popular fishing areas all along the Victorian coastline.  Image: Zoos Victoria
Seal the Loop bins have been placed in popular fishing areas all along the Victorian coastline.
Image: Zoos Victoria

“The bins, which are made of recycled plastic waste, make it easy to dispose of fishing waste in a way that ensures it will never harm wildlife or beach users,” said Ms. MacDonald.

GORCC currently has Seal the Loop bins at Torquay Main Beach, Torquay Point, near the Anglesea River, on the Lorne Pier and along the Lorne Foreshore.

GORCC has recently applied for two additional Seal the Loop bins to be installed at the Jan Juc Surf Club car park and the Moggs Creek boardwalk.

Keen fishermen and anglers wanting to make even more of a difference can take responsibility for their rubbish and take it home to be disposed properly off-site.

More information can be found on the Seal the Loop website.

Research reveals pest’s adaptive abilities

New research has confirmed that an invasive species is rapidly adapting to different ecosystems along the coast, allowing it to spread fast and threatening the health of the marine environment.

A team of Deakin University researchers have been studying the Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias amurensis) in Australia to better understand its potential to expand its geographical range.

Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias Amurensis) adult. Photo: Mark Richardson
Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias Amurensis) adult. Photo: Mark Richardson

The invasive seastar species originates from Japan and is a voracious predator which has a major impact on the marine food chain, devastating marine wildlife.

Deakin University PhD student Mark Richardson has been conducting research to test whether its larvae have the ability to cope with elevated water temperatures, which may determine the seastar’s potential range.

“The experiments have established that Northern Pacific Seastar larvae from Port Phillip Bay have several genetic differences that allow them to adapt to the local environment.

Northern Pacific Seastar larvae viewed under a microscope in the experiment to analyse its adaptive abilities. Photo: Mark Richardson
Northern Pacific Seastar larvae viewed under a microscope in the experiment to analyse its adaptive abilities. Photo: Mark Richardson

“The same experiments were performed on native Japanese Northern Pacific Seastars to evaluate their genetic profiles and see whether the individuals living in Australia have developed greater tolerance to higher water temperatures.

“The results indicate the Northern Pacific Seastars in Australia have a higher ability to thrive in elevated water temperatures compared to the native Japanese individuals”, Mr Richardson said.

The heightened ability for the seastar to adapt to different water temperatures could pose a threat to the native marine wildlife along the East Coast of Australia.

The Northern Pacific Seastar spreads through ocean currents and could infest waters eastwards from Port Phillip Bay along the coast.

Project leader Dr. Craig Sherman from Deakin University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, said the experiments conducted on seastar larvae would improve understanding about this invasive species in Australia.

“From this research we have developed a better understanding about how seastar populations are connected and how this species is adapting and spreading along the coast.

“We are interested in the ecological impacts the seastar is having on marine communities and the rapid evolution the seastar undertakes to survive in the environment,” said Dr Sherman.

The water temperature research will be able to provide information for future marine pest management strategies in Australia.

Marine pests threaten our local marine environments. To find out more about what marine pests to look out for click here.

Hundreds descend on beach classroom

260 Torquay College students swapped the classroom for the beach last week as part of educational activities led by Torquay Surf Lifesaving Club and the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC).

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GORCC Education Leader Pete Crowcroft provides fun facts about the sea snail to onlooking students

The year 5 and 6 students enjoyed a week of outdoor activities, guest speakers and hands on learning as part of GORCC’s Environmental Education Program.

Activities focused on topics such as dune preservation, marine wildlife and the importance of fragile ecosystems.

Rock pool investigations were popular, with students relishing the opportunity to discover the interesting creatures that live on the coast.

GORCC Education Leader Pete Crowcroft holds a crab for the students to get a better look
GORCC Education Leader Pete Crowcroft holds a crab for the students to get a better look

GORCC Education Activity Leader Pete Crowcroft said the students were excited to be out and about in their local environment.

“The program is a fantastic way to get students interested and involved in the marine environment.

“Their eagerness to learn about the fauna living in the rock pools really demonstrated their natural curiosity.

“By getting students to care about the coast at a young age, we’re really hoping that they will grow up to appreciate and look after their own backyard,” Mr Crowcroft said.

Torquay College teacher Chelsea James said there was a real excitement in the air as the kids descended onto the coast.

Kayla Ching (left) holds a crab as classmates Jordyn Bray and Finley Royner look on
Kayla Ching (left) holds a crab as classmates Jordyn Bray and Finley Royner look on

“The students learn and remember extraordinary facts about the animals they see which they take home and share with their families and friends.

“The GORCC program creates an exciting classroom and provides hands on learning which is really important to encourage them learn and ask questions,” Ms James said.

GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale said it is important to encourage students to appreciate the natural environment.

“Education is the key and inviting younger members of the community to become involved in coastal protection will to create a future generation that loves and cares for the coast,” said Ms Beale.

GORCC offers groups of all ages the opportunity to engage in hands on learning to understand, respect and protect the local coastal surroundings.

For more information about GORCC’s free activities for schools and groups or to learn more about how you can help to care for the local coast,  visit our website.

This article appeared in the Surf Coast Times Green the Coast column.

Education is key

Education is the most important tool when it comes to fighting the ongoing battle with litter.

With more than 270,000 tonnes of rubbish polluting the oceans and more than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic, it is no wonder rubbish is a lethal threat to marine animals.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) conservation staff along with dedicated volunteer groups continually remove litter from our coastal areas throughout the year with increased efforts over the busy holiday period.

A huge proportion of mis-handled waste ends up back in the ocean where it harms marine life.
A huge proportion of mis-handled waste ends up back in the ocean where it harms marine life.

GORCC conservation supervisor Georgie Beale is disappointed at the amount of litter in our oceans and believes that education is vital in reducing its presence in our coastal environments.

“Education is the key to overcoming the battle with litter. Getting kids to change their behaviour and bin their rubbish will make a huge difference to the environment.

“We have incorporated marine debris into our educational programs to inform people about how important it is to keep our beaches clean,” Ms Beale said.

“We teach groups about the Take 3 for the Sea campaign which is a simple idea that encourages everyone to take three extra pieces of rubbish with them as they leave the beach.

“Our biggest challenge is reaching those who don’t care and don’t understand their impact on our unique marine wildlife which is why educating young children is so important,” Ms Beale explains.

The amount of litter in the oceans is constantly increasing. Much of it degrades very slowly. Plastic bottles and nylon fishing line are particularly durable. Although many plastics break down into smaller fragments, it will take decades or even centuries (estimated timescales) for them to disappear completely. Source: Maribus (World Ocean Review)
The amount of litter in the oceans is constantly increasing. Much of it degrades very slowly. Plastic bottles and nylon fishing line are particularly durable. Although many plastics break down into smaller fragments, it will take decades or even centuries (estimated timescales) for them to disappear completely. Source: Maribus (World Ocean Review)

Top 10 marine debris items

  1. Cigarettes/ cigarette filters
  2. Bags (plastic)
  3. Food wrappers/ containers
  4. Caps/lids
  5. Beverage bottles (plastic)
  6. Cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons (plastic)
  7. Beverage bottles (glass)
  8. Beverage cans
  9. Straws, stirrers (plastic)
  10. Bags (paper)

Local Surfrider Foundation Surf Coast volunteer John Foss said the educational programs that are offered in schools and through GORCC are making a huge difference in teaching the next generation about the hazards of litter.

“What we need is for people to stop treating our coast as an ashtray.

“Unfortunately it is often the visitors that cause the most damage to the coast as they have not received the education locals have about caring for our environment.

“We need a national anti-litter campaign that targets young people and beachgoers in a multilingual format to get the message across,” said Mr Foss.

Although we cannot eliminate the world’s marine litter, we can make a difference along our precious beaches by encouraging others to keep the beaches clean.

Click here to find out more about volunteering along the surf coast.

How do you look after our coast? Comment below.

Related blogs:

Jan Juc kids listening as GORCC Conservation Worker Pete Crowcroft talks about beach litterBeach Kinder a hit with kids
A huge proportion of mis-handled waste ends up back in the ocean where it harms marine life.Australia’s dirtiest beaches exposed
Surfcoast Shire's Cr David Bell together with GORCC's Georgie Beale encouraging beachgoers to take 3 pieces of rubbish when they leave the coast this summer.Take 3 to keep coast healthy

A Day to focus on our fish

Every year on November 21 fishing communities and environmentalist groups across the globe celebrate World Fisheries Day and the importance of maintaining marine wildlife.

The United Nations found in a recent study that more than two-thirds of the world’s fisheries have been overfished or are fully harvested and more than one third are in a state of decline due to factors including the loss of essential fish habitats, pollution, and global warming.

Although there are so many fishing spots along the surf coast, many locations around the world have lost this luxury.
Although there are so many fishing spots along the surf coast, many locations around the world have lost this luxury.

The day highlights the importance of fish in water health, and the lives they sustain in and out of the water through rallies, workshops, public meetings, cultural programs, exhibitions, music shows, and demonstrations.

Without the continual regeneration of fish, the diets of millions of people around the world will be negatively affected and a huge proportion of traditional societies who are reliant on the occupation of fishing will also be impacted.

With the majority of cities placed closely to water bodies, severe ocean and coastal pollution has become an ever-increasing problem with the depletion of fish resulting in a crisis.

Unsustainable fishing methods linked to mechanisation has been a huge factor in the issue.

The World Fisheries Day helps to highlight these problems, and moves towards finding solutions to the increasingly inter-connected problems we are facing, and in the longer term, to sustainable means of maintaining fish stocks.

With the continual pollution and over-fishing around the surf coast, fish may become very difficult to find.
With the continual pollution and over-fishing around the surf coast, fish may become very difficult to find.

Not sure why this is such a big issue?

• Fisheries and aquaculture employ more than 43 million individuals worldwide.
• More than 25% of the world’s dietary protein is provided by fish.
• The human population consumes over 100 million metric tonnes of fish annually
• Globally, annual fisheries exports are valued at 85 to 90 billion dollars.
• Escalating amounts of pollution continue to threaten water quality and fish habitat
• All natural fish stocks today contain at least some mercury

Spring Creek is one of many popular fishing spots along the Surf Coast.
Spring Creek is one of many popular fishing locations along the Surf Coast.

To find out more about the Day and how you can make a difference, visit the event’s Facebook page here.