Birds Queensland Protect Seabirds Project

Brighton Beach Nth clean-up site
Brighton Beach Nth clean-up site

Birds Queensland (BQ) successfully applied for a Community Marine Debris Grant sponsored by Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Inc. and Healthy Waterways. The grant was used by BQ for their Protect Seabirds Project and involved the removal of marine litter from the beaches of Coochiemudlo Island and Brighton four times during 2014. The grant covered the cost of items used for the collection such as gloves, bags, tongs, printing and the transport of a vehicle to Coochiemudlo Island. A detailed report of the Protect Seabirds Project was submitted to Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Inc. and a copy is available in the Birds Queensland library.

Members of Birds Queensland removed 118 kilograms of marine debris from the beaches of Coochiemudlo Island and Brighton during four clean-ups in March, May, July and September 2014. The litter was then sorted into piles of the same material type then further sorted into 55 possible categories, photographed counted and the data entered into the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) of Tangaroa Blue. http://www.tangaroablue.org The types and amounts of marine debris impacting each site were then collated into a standardised national database by the AMDI. This creates a comprehensive overview of the nature of the marine debris impacting Australian beaches with the aim of finding practical ways of preventing those items from ending up in the marine environment.

Bush Stone-curlew entangled in fishing line
Bush Stone-curlew entangled in fishing line

Over the four clean-ups nearly 12,400 items and an estimated 460 metres of fishing line were removed, sorted and catalogued. Three birds on Coochiemudlo Island were found dead, entangled in fishing line, one identified as a Bush Stone-curlew. The following information on the Birds Queensland clean ups has been extracted from the AMDI; number of plastic items 8698, glass 1666, metal 388, cloth 315, rubber 260, paper and cardboard 218, foam 155, wood 82 and other material 30.

Most of the debris had English labels and was identified as coming from the Moreton Bay area with the majority of items from recreational fishing. Plastic was the predominant material type (70%) found in this project.  This is closely similar to a recent study by CSIRO researchers who found 75% of the debris along the Australian coastline was plastic, mostly from Australian sources and concentrated near cities. http://www.csiro.au/Organisation-Structure/Flagships/Wealth-from-Oceans-Flagship/marine-debris.aspx.

Marine plastic is found in all oceans and comes in all shapes and colours and mimics food at every trophic level. A floating plastic bag looks like a jellyfish and a ruptured balloon may appear like a squid. The impact of plastic debris on marine wildlife and seabirds is devastating through entanglement, choking, ingestion with subsequent starvation and if a bag is swallowed, the inability to dive for food. More needs to be done to stop the oceans being dumping areas for poor land and sea waste management practices.

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