‘Incredibly low’ marine debris levels found at Ningaloo Reef

(Supplied: CSIRO) ABC North West WA

By

Kendall O'Connor

Posted

June 18, 2018 06:48:38

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Researchers from the CSIRO surveying for marine debris at Ningaloo Reef.
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The World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef has recorded incredibly low levels of marine debris. (ABC North West WA: Kendall O’Connor)
Exmouth Shire President, Matthew Niikkula, said the community took pride in reducing waste in town.The town’s supermarkets stopped using plastic bags more than ten years ago.”That was a fantastic initiative,” he said.Mr Niikkula said the town was prepared for the July 1 state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags.”No one wants to litter, no one wants to harm the environment. (ABC Rural: Michelle Stanley)
About 80 million tonnes of plastic is discarded into the world’s oceans each year, and that is expected to almost triple to 220 million tonnes by 2025.Mr Thomson said the sunken debris that does not make it to shore could also bring in contaminants and invasive species to the area.”Initiatives such as the education programs we’re running with the local schools are really important and that’s helping secure the conservation of the reef in the future.” Scientists have found that a World Heritage listed site on Western Australia’s north coast is largely untouched when it comes to the threat of marine debris.Researchers from the CSIRO have been surveying the Ningaloo Reef and coastline near Exmouth to assess the amount of rubbish being found in the ocean and on the shore.Leader of the Ningaloo Outlook Shallow Reefs program, Damian Thomson, said volumes of debris in the sea and on land are both ‘incredibly low’.”We wanted to look at what was actually sinking and ended up on the reef,” he said. “We’re advocates for taking your rubbish with you, cleaning it all up and throwing nothing in the water and if you see something pick it up.”A global issueUnfortunately, the promising data does not mean the region will escape the challenge posed by more plastic ending up in the ocean.”There was an incident last year where a large amount of debris washed up in a very short space of time.”Obviously [it] travelled a long amount of time, so that highlights that while levels at Ningaloo are low it still has the potential to be impacted by debris from other areas a long way away,” Mr Thomson said. Photo:
Cape Conservation Group member Jamie Van Jones managed to fit seven weeks of rubbish into a single jar. “In the last five years we’ve covered more than 35 kilometres of reef and we’re finding very low levels of debris on the reef as well as the beaches.”Mr Thomson attributed a factor for the low pollution levels was the local community and visitors to the region being environmentally conscious.”We think that people that are coming here are incredibly environmentally aware, so they’re taking out what they’re bringing in and the local population is vigilant doing regular clean-ups,” he said.Community vigilantCape Conservation Group member, Jamie Van Jones, visits Exmouth regularly to conduct debris surveys of the region.During a recent seven-week stint of camping, she managed to fit all her waste into a single coffee jar.”We wanted to look at how much we had and how we could eliminate most sorts of plastic from our trip, so that’s what we were left with,” she said.Paper products and food scraps were composted at the local community garden and cans were sent off to recycling.
Map:
Exmouth 6707