Finding the source of rubbish

Have you ever considered where the piece of plastic blowing on the beach came from? A team of dedicated  reasearch scientists have made it their mission to trace  rubbish and debris on our beaches back to it’s source.

This research is being conducted to better understand the impact of debris on marine eco-systems.

The team of marine scientists led by CSIRO Research Scientist Dr Britta Denise Hardesty are stopping every 100km around the Australian coastline to catalogue rubbish and debris.

Dr Hardesty said debris collected during the surveys will be analysed by looking for barcodes and other identifying markers to determine its origin.

This picture was taken at Rye Beach. Photo courtesy of the CSIRO

“This research will allow us to determine the distribution of marine debris and whether the debris comes from land based sources or washes in from the sea.

Information about the sources of this rubbish and debris will help create a national map of areas where marine wildlife is likely to encounter debris and determine which animals are most at risk of harm.

“Information about the sources of this rubbish and debris will help create a national map of areas where marine wildlife is likely to encounter debris and determine which animals are most at risk of harm,” she said.

Studies by CSIRO and other research organisations have revealed more than 270 species of marine animals are affected by marine debris worldwide.

This YouTube clip demonstrates why it’s important to make sure you dispose of rubbish correctly.

How can you contribute to the surveys?

Dr. Hardesty said community and volunteer groups can help protect the environment by providing information about the rubbish they collect from beaches to the TeachWild National Marine Debris Database Project.

So far the surveys have revealed even beaches in remote areas can have debris, whilst it is more common to find debris on beaches within easy access of populations centres or towns.

What’s happening on the Surf Coast to reduce marine debris?

President of local environmental volunteer group, Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE) Graeme Stockton said there are lots of volunteering opportunities on the coast for those interested in protecting the environment.

“As a community we need to be proactive and join local groups who are campaigning to protect the environment,” he said.

A group of Torquay residents have initiated ‘Plastic Bag Free Torquay’ a campaign to ban single use plastic bags in the Torquay area.

Stacie Bobele from ‘Plastic Bag Free Torquay’ said Australians use 16 million plastic bags each day.

“A ban on plastic shopping bags is the easiest way to reduce the amount of plastic which goes into our oceans and landfill areas.

“By bringing re- usable bags each time we shop, we are taking a significant step toward a healthier ocean and healthier environment,” she said.

Rubbish and debris at Hawaii’s Kamilo Beach, often regarded as the dirtiest beach in the world. Photo: Tim Silverwood.

Are there any areas on the Surf Coast that you think need cleaning up? Can you suggest any other ways we can reduce the amount of rubbish on our beaches?

Follow these links to find out more:

Read the CSIRO fact sheet on tackling marine debris.

Learn more about the National Marine Debris Database.

Find out more or become involved with Plastic Bag Free Torquay.

Learn more about the work of Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment or get involved.

This article appeared in the Surf Coast Times fortnightly Green the Coast Column.

An Underwater World In Decline

Imagine you are in a forest and life is teeming around you.  The forest canopy stretches metres above and as you look up into the filtered sunlight a myriad of lifeforms can be seen living in their sheltered forest home.

No, it’s not a tropical rainforest; it’s an underwater world of Giant Kelps (Macrocystis).

The exceptional biodiversity of these Giant Kelp beds was first noted by Charles Darwin who visited Australia in 1983 and proclaimed, “The number of living creatures of all orders, whose existence intimately depends on the kelp, is wonderful”.

These large, brown algae are attached to the seafloor and are an important feature of many temperate reefs.  Buoyed by large, air filled bladders, they stand up in the water, and create a forest like environment, providing shelter and food for hundreds of species.

Macrocystis is limited to specific areas due to its preference for cool water and their need for rocky reefs to anchor themselves to.  In Australia, Macrocystis is confined to the southeastern parts of the mainland and Tasmania.

Global Distribution of Giant Kelp:

Climate change and the decline of Macrocystis:

Evidence suggests Giant Kelps are in decline.  The problem has been associated with the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern, and contributing factors include changes in ocean acidity, increasing sea surface temperatures, more frequent storm surge events, and erosion of the coast.

Scientists believe the increasingly frequent ENSO phenomenon is driving warm tropical currents further south down the east coast of Australia where higher than normal water temperatures in partnership with lower nutrient availability, has seen a crash in Kelp populations, particularly in Tasmania.

Impacts on marine life are already apparent. Distributions of fish and other animals are shifting polewards and the timing of Antarctic seabird breeding and migration is changing, while some fish species previously only seen in Sydney are now being found in Port Phillip Bay.

How you can help

Everyone who cares about the health of our oceans can get involved by reducing their carbon footprint and working together to seek lasting global solutions to climate change.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee is currently undertaking a project on climate change and adaption strategies along the Surf Coast which commenced in April 2010.  You can investigate ways make a difference, and find further information at http://www.gorcc.com.au .

To get hands on in the battle against climate change, contact Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE), a local community group that conducts environmental activities in the Bells Beach Reserve, on the 2nd Sunday of each month starting at 10:00am. Contact Graeme Stockton on 0425 752 648 or go to SANE’s website at www.sanesurfers.org.au.

This article was published in the Surf Coast Times as part of the publications fortnightly “Going Green Column”.

Playful whale heralds in a great day for forum goers

The Community Forum for Coastal Volunteers last Sunday, 29 August 2010, turned out to be quite an experience for all concerned.

Throughout the day, Fairhaven Surf Life Saving Club was abuzz with the conversation and laughter of some 40 voices as a playful whale made the most of the glassy waves on offer, delighting and sometimes distracting participants from forum proceedings.

With some arriving after very long drives from as far away as Princetown, the first order of the day was morning tea and pit stops before Coast Action/Coastcare Facilitator Jess Brown welcomed everyone to the forum and introduced facilitator Geoff Brown.

Geoff got straight down to business working with the group to map out the connections between the various groups and agencies represented, including by inviting everyone to ‘find their tribe’. A number of tribes quickly formed, primarily along geographic and/or organisational type lines (e.g. Land Manager Tribe, Community Volunteer Group Tribe). Queens Park

It was fascinating to see which tribe people saw themselves as belonging to, with the sole Princetown representative welcomed into the Anglesea community tribe and Friends of Queens Park ending up in the land manager tribe.

This exercise highlighted the different types of connections and the benefits of building constructive networks – a perfect introduction into the three guest speaker presentations that followed:

  • Graeme Stockton outlined the achievements of his group, Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE), in protecting and conserving the many values of the Bells Beach Surfing Reserve  Bells Beach
  • Gail Chrisfield described how one little hooded plover helped to introduce the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee to the possibilities afforded by social media to connect and engage with people online, and
  • Margaret Macdonald used a case study to illustrate how the community connections between Friends of Eastern Otways and other groups were having a positive impact on the coastal environment around the iconic Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. PR Plover and his missus

Then it was time for everyone else to share their own stories with others via a ‘Jumpstart Story’ process that enabled one to quickly listen and share with at least half those gathered before identifying the five or six most inspiring stories for further investigation by the whole group.

The conversations continued flowing throughout a very lively lunch, interspersed with visits to the top of the grassy knoll to view the whale who, by now, looked to have taken up residence out the front of the club.

Fed and watered, the group soon settled down after lunch into the task of future gazing, using a magic wand to look at goals and hopes for the future. The stories from the morning session proved useful in identifying the ‘X factors’ for success, including the skills, capacities and connections among the volunteer groups that are already in place and can be built on. Moggs Creek

Meanwhile the various land managers worked on simple but enlightening role statements to support them in communicating and connecting with others.

Finally, the home straight was in plain sight (as was the whale – still!) as the discussion moved to the next steps needed to making the future a reality, with the first step being to share what happened at the forum via this blog.

In all, the day provided a fantastic opportunity to connect and share with others whose passion is caring for the coast. A big heartfelt thank you to Coast Action/Coastcare Facilitator Jess Brown who put in a lot of hard work and effort to put it all together and make it happen.

Over the coming weeks, the stories emerging from the forum, the lessons we learnt, the goals and wishes for our various groups and our coast, and the next steps we need to take will be progressively added to this blog for participants to refer to and comment on, and to share with those who weren’t there, including people we don’t even know from coasts in other parts of the world.

We look forward to sharing these experiences with you and invite you to post your impressions, thoughts and ideas to this blog – and to spread the word to others.