Sunday, January 8, 2012

GHOST NETS AUSTRALIA: Dealing with debris

An article taken from GNA issue 5 here
From GNA newsletter here
Since 2010 Ghost Nets Australia (GNA) has expanded our work to a broader issue of marine debris, we did this as a normal response after clearing the beach of nets, naturally moving on to the rest of the rubbish brought in by the tides. In doing this we became part of a global movement to combat marine litter. 

We’ve discovered that this rubbish issue is bigger than our scope and wish to introduce a partner “Tangaroa Blue” who works with community groups to clean beaches and record information about this rubblish.  Heidi Taylor is the founder of Tangaroa Blue and talks about how her organisation came about;

Once you start picking up marine debris on the beach, it's hard to walk past any item that shouldn't be there. Back in 2004 walks along Ellensbrook Beach in the south west of Western Australia meant coming back with armfuls of rubbish, so we started taking bags with us, and always managed to fill those, and so we started organising beach clean ups. And guess what? We never come back with an empty rubbish bag.....

That's when Tangaroa Blue Ocean Care Society was formed and launched The Australian Marine Debris Initiative. And by 2011 more than 6500 volunteers along 500 coastal sites around  Australia have removed well over 650,000 bits of marine debris. Now not only did we want to remove the debris from the coast to ensure that it wouldn't entangle or be ingested by marine life and seabirds, but we collected data on exactly what we were finding, and this is all housed in the National Marine Debris Database.

The goal for the database is to provide information and evidence on what is being washed up at different sites around Australia and New Zealand, which can then be used to help trace the items back to the source, and ultimately to find practical ways of stopping those items from ending up in the marine enviornment in the first place.
Communities, industry groups, government agencies, schools and individual volunteers have joined the Australian Marine Debris Initiative by adopting a section of coastline on which to run regular marine debris monitoring clean ups and clean up materials, training & support and educational materials are all provided for those who register.

For more information on how to get involved visit or email

Teachers wishing to incorporate marine studies into their teaching plans AUSMEPA has units of work on Marine Stormwater Pollution here and Student Leadership here, which may assist in getting students working with community projects like these.

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