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Tackling marine debris

Marine debris and litter is a serious pollution issue that affects our waterways, coastline and ocean - impacting on wildlife, human health and the marine environment. In 2005, it was estimated that 7 billion tonnes of litter and waste debris enters the world’s oceans annually and most of this comes from the land.

Debris in Moreton Bay poses a major threat to marine life, with the major impacts being ingestion or entanglement.

On average, a staggering 200 turtles are reported dead, injured or sick in Moreton Bay Marine Park every year. Turtles can become entangled and drown in discarded crab pots, fishing nets and rubbish. Turtles also mistakenly eat plastic debris, which once ingested can prevent food digestion and lead to a very slow and painful death. The cause of death of over 30% of stranded sea turtles in Moreton Bay is ingestion of marine debris.

Marine turtles are particularly vulnerable to debris because of their downward facing spines, meaning they can swallow things easily but cannot throw them back up, so when they eat foreign objects it paralyses the gut and prevents them from digesting their food. This decomposing food emits gases which cause the turtle to float, making it more susceptible to boat strike or attack from predators.

One of the best ways to tackle the problem of debris is though on ground conservation action. On ground clean ups help to decrease the amount of physical debris that collects in hot spots and also raises awareness of the issue.

The Lifeline for Moreton Bay Project supports community clean ups both on land and water-based. The project also educates and trains students in conducting scientifically standardised marine debris surveys that contribute to the University of Queensland's research projects on the impact of debris. Find out more about the training course here.

Reef Check Australia conducting under water surveys


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