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Healthy Oceans for a

Healthy Future


Healthy Oceans for a Healthy Future Our ocean covers 70% of the Earth and supports many different life forms so it is important that we look after it for the future. In Tasmania, we have some of the most unique and diverse marine ecosystems in the world. From wild, exposed coasts and offshore reefs, to deep drowned river valleys, ancient sponge gardens and towering kelp forests. These diverse and unique local environments are home to extraordinary wildlife including migratory whales, dolphins, sea birds, crustaceans, molluscs, and over 600 species of fish including the endangered and utterly unique Handfish. Tasmania’s Marine Reserves are home to over 500 species of marine invertebrates, 100 species of seaweed, 80 species of red algae, sponges, sea tulips and bryozoans. Source: Ocean Planet Tasmania

This booklet will explain how we are impacting on the wonders of the ocean. It’s up to all of us to help find new ways to fix these problems, so let’s work together!


ake sure k together to m We need to wor part of the ns. You can be ea oc e th r fte a erence. we look and make a diff e ng a ch r fo ve next wa

What is Marine Debris? Unfortunately, a lot of human-made waste ends up in the ocean; we call this marine debris. It is made up of many different kinds of things, including plastic, metal, glass, ceramics or wood. Some examples of marine debris are: packaging for drinks and food, nylon materials used in fishing line, polystyrene cups, rubber tyres, light bulbs, cloth, cardboard, and pollution (oil and other waste).

64% 25% 8% 2% 1% 10,239,538 Shoreline & Recreational Activities

SmokingRelated Activities

Ocean Waterway Activities Dumping Activities

Medical/ Personal Hygiene

Total debris items collected worldwide

de item any human-ma Marine debris is the ocean. that ends up in

Source:Ocean Conservancy, International Coast Clean Up 2009

2009 Worldwide Sources of Marine Debris


How do you think it got there? Marine debris can come from; • The land: from roadways to storm drains, canals, creeks, and rivers, out to the ocean. • The ocean: from a boat or platform into the ocean. Some rubbish is deliberately dumped into the ocean. Floating debris is moved by winds and ocean currents, sometimes far from its origin.








Cigarettes/cigarette filters


Bags (plastic)


Food wrappers/containers




Caps, lids




Beverage bottles (plastic)




Cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons




Beverage bottles (glass)




Beverage cans




Straws, stirrers




Bags (paper)









Source: Ocean Conservancy/International Coastal Cleanup 2009



ers eventually … creeks and riv



lead to the sea

Does marine debris biodegrade? The time it takes for marine debris to break down into smaller pieces depends on many factors such as what it’s made from, its size, thickness, and environmental conditions.

How long until it biodegrades? Paper towel

2 to 4 weeks


1 to 6 weeks

Cotton rope

5 months

Apple core

2 months

Cardboard box

2 months

Waxed milk carton

3 months


6 months


1 to 3 years

Wool socks

1 to 5 years

Plastic grocery bag

20 to 1,000 years

Tin can

50 years

Foam plastic cup

50 years

Aluminium can

200 years

Plastic beverage holder

400 years

Disposable nappy

450 years

Plastic bottle

450 years

Fishing line

600 years

A plastic bag can take 20 to 1,000 years to biodegrade! NOTE: Estimated individual item timelines depend on product composition and environmental conditions. Source: South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (DEHC) – Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) – Southeast and NOAA 2008.

le means “capab Biodegradable ia er down by bact of being broken ganisms”. or other living or 5

Why is plastic such a problem? One of the biggest problems with plastic is that it is non-biodegradable. Plastics degrade through being exposed to sunlight. When this happens, it breaks-down into smaller and smaller pieces (fragmentation) but never completely disappears – its internal structure stays the same; it is still plastic. Once plastic has degraded, the particles are so small you can’t see them with your eyes, but they stay suspended in seawater like a soup. Although the plastic particles are small, they can still cause big problems in the ocean, by remaining in the environment for an extremely long time.

Plastic bags are a big problem. They litter the landscape and once they are used, most plastic bags go into landfill. Each year, more and more plastic bags end up littering the environment. Once they become litter, plastic bags find their way into our waterways, parks, beaches, and streets. If they are burned, they release toxic fumes into the air.

Did you know?

Australians use 3.9 billion plastic shopping bags a year – this is about 10 million a day! Source: Planet Ark 2007


ng time e items take a lo d a m na m hu t ent Mos marine environm e th in n ow d k r. to brea r really disappea and some neve

Plastic in the food chain Phytoplankton (microscopic organisms) are the base of the food chain for all marine creatures. They are too small to see with your eyes. Plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces until it is the same size as phytoplankton. Fish and other animals that eat phytoplankton can ingest plastic at the same time and it builds up inside them as a toxin. Humans can then eat the fish. Moving up the food chain, the amount of plastic inside each animal increases because animals at the top of the food chain eat lots of smaller animals with a lot of plastic inside them.

Food Chain Large shark quaternary consumer

Small shark tertiary consumer Ocean sunfish secondary consumer

Copepods primary consumer

Dinoflagellates producer

energy from the sun

tion of toxins is the concentra n tio a ul um cc chain. Bioa time, in the food er ov ), ic st la p s (such a


Plastic can kill animals About 100,000 animals such as dolphins, turtles, whales and penguins are killed every year due to plastics in the ocean. Many animals eat plastic bags, thinking that they are food, and end up dying. To make it worse, when that animal dies and decomposes the plastic bag that was inside the animal is released back into the environment where another animal may eat it.

Source: Belinda Colson

Available information indicates at least 77 species of marine wildlife found in Australian waters and at least 267 marine species worldwide, are affected by entanglement in, or ingestion of marine debris, including 86% of all sea turtles species, 44% of all seabird species and 43% of all marine mammal species. Source: GhostNets Australia


iodegradable Plastic is non-b e life. ig threat to marin and causes a b

Plastic Fast Facts: Did you know?

• • •

Plastic was invented by Alexander Parkes in 1860. Australians use 3.9 billion plastic shopping bags a year – this is about 10 million a day! Source: Planet Ark statistics, 2007 Plastic bags are produced from polymers that come from petroleum. The amount of petroleum used to make a plastic bag can drive a car about 11 metres. (Based on Australia’s daily usage of plastic bags, this equates to enough petrol to drive approx.110,000 km/day!)

• • • •

In 2010 Australia produced 43.8 million tonnes of human-made waste! About 7,150 recyclable plastic bags are dumped into Australia’s landfills every minute or 429,000 every hour. Source: Clean Up Australia Nearly half a million plastic bags are collected on Clean Up Australia Day each year. It is estimated that over 13,000 pieces of plastic litter float on every square kilometre of ocean and this figure continues to grow. Source: Derraik, J.G.B. 2002: The pollution of the

marine environment by plastic debris: a review. Marine Pollution Bulletin

Some whales can have so much plastic toxins in them that they only live until they are 30 years old when they should live until they are 80 years old! The toxin builds up in the animal slowly poisoning them.

In recent years, many people have started to use reusable bags, such as the ‘green bags’ you can buy at most supermarkets. Because of these efforts, the number of plastic bags used in Australia has fallen from around 6 billion in 2002 to 3.9 billion in 2007. Some States and Territories have even introduced bans and taxes on plastic bags. However, there is still a lot more that can be done.

uce changes to red ke a m ll a n ca e W lastic we use. the amount of p 9

The 7 ‘R’s’ RETHINK

Do you need it?


To buy things in plastic bags or with a lot of packaging


The amount of non biodegradable items that you buy


What you can; and remember your reusable shopping bags


Paper, plastic, glass and metal (Australia currently sends 70-80% of waste to landfill and only recycles about 20-30% of total waste. Source: Nolan-ITU, 2002)


Write or email companies asking them to reduce packaging or create new oceanfriendly materials


Organise or participate in a Clean Up or World Oceans Day event


nt duce the amou You can help re n. ea ds up in the oc of waste that en

What can you do to help reduce marine debris? Here are some hints / ideas: †† Use green bags instead of plastic bags. †† Buy things with little or no packaging. If there is packaging, check if it can be recycled and recycle it. †† Recycle supermarket (HDPE) plastic bags. †† Pack a waste-free lunch in reusable containers or wraps. †† Put rubbish in the bin. Don’t litter our streets or the environment.

What else can you do to help look after our oceans? †† Report whale sightings in Tasmanian waters, whale or dolphin strandings, injured whales, dolphins or seals, strange or unusual marine mammals and turtles to the Whale hotline on 0427 – WHALES (0427 942 537). †† Organise or participate in a beach clean-up day or World Oceans Day event (held annually on the 8th June). †† Collect and record marine debris and contribute your data to the National Marine Debris Project Database www.oceancare.org.au †† “Dob in a Dumper” and report illegal dumping to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) on 1300 135 513. If you come across dumped waste report its location to your local Council so they can investigate who may have dumped it.

u can Think of ways yo debris and reduce marine d to others. spread the wor


Pollution Everything that you put down the sink may end up in the ocean. Human-made chemicals such as cleaning detergents, acids and oils can pose serious problems to marine life. These liquids combine with seawater to make a seawater soup that can kill marine creatures. Would you like to drink and swim in this seawater soup? Ocean pollution is a result of several industries and different practices. Landbased activities are responsible for more than 80% of ocean pollution. Pollutants can enter the sea directly (via rivers and other waterways), from urban sewerage and stormwater, industrial waste discharges, agricultural run-off (pesticides and fertilizers), by sea transport (oil tankers; fuel and oil spills, ballast water), or ocean mining operations.

Marine Debris Fast Facts:

Around 8 million items of litter enter the marine environment every day. An estimated 70% of marine litter ends up on the sea bed, 15% on beaches, and the remaining floats to the surface. Source: Marine Litter - An Analytical Overview – UNEP 2005

An estimated 80% of marine debris is from land based sources 20% sea based. These sources fall into four major groups: Source: Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans – Greenpeace Product related - eg. food/beverage packaging etc Waste/stormwater related – eg. stormwater drains, sewer overflows etc Fishing related - eg. lines, nets etc Ship/boat related - eg. waste/rubbish deliberately or accidentally dumped overboard International Bird Resuce Research Centre

• • • •


‘Think of the link;


the sea to the si

Pollution: Human-made chemicals Human-made chemicals in the ocean can make sea creatures sick, by affecting their reproduction, nervous system, digestion, growth and development; or can lead to cancers. Toxins can accumulate in the food chain, and also in top predators, including marine mammals and sea birds (eg. sea eagles). Humans can potentially be affected, by eating contaminated fish or seafood.

Interesting fact:

Typically the first born calf to a female orca whale dies, because the mother passes on much of her accumulated toxins in her breast milk.

u sink it, Think before yo in it, or drink it! you might swim


Overfishing / By-catch In the past, the oceans have been teeming with fish, but as the human population continues to increase, and our ability to catch fish improves, fish stocks have become drastically reduced. As a result, some fish species are struggling to survive. Some methods of fishing are not selective, such as drift netting, which catches everything in the net, not just the fish you want to catch. Non-target fish are called ‘by-catch’ and are often not eaten. By-catch can also include marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, sharks and invertebrates (eg. crabs and other crustaceans). Often by-catch die by drowning in fishing nets. To reduce this, innovations such as Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) have been designed to allow non-target species to swim out of the nets. Overfishing can result in reduced numbers of juvenile fish; or mature breeding-age fish, thereby leading to low growth rates; or dramatic changes in the composition of species in a particular area. You can help by choosing to eat sustainable seafood. www.sustainableseafood.org.au


e can food choice, w ht rig e th ng ki a By m in the sea, breed more fish eans healthy. and keep our oc

Recreational fishing When you go fishing, take care to make sure no fishing tackle is left in the ocean (eg. rope, fishing line, food containers). Selectively fish by taking only what you need, and ensuring it is of the correct size. You can find out the legal size required for each fish species by contacting the Sea Fishing Line on 1300 386 550, or visit www.fishing.tas.gov.au, or ask for a free Recreational Sea Fishing Guide from your local outdoor store.

: only Fish for the future

take what you

need. 15

Marine Pests : Invaders and ocean raiders The introduction and spread of marine pests is a key threat to the health and diversity of marine and estuarine ecosystems. Introduced marine pests can threaten our enjoyment of many coastal recreational activities including fishing, sailing, boating and scuba diving. They may also threaten the viability of our fishing and seafood industries. Some marine animals have migrated from foreign seas by hitching a ride in and on boats, and are infesting Australian waters. Australia has over 250 introduced marine species. Some of these marine pests compete with our native animals for food, and some even feed on our native marine life. If these pests become established in our waters, they can have serious consequences including threatening the survival of our native marine life and damaging the attractiveness and value of our favourite marine areas. There are a number of recognised marine pests in Tasmania including: • The Northern Pacific Sea Star (Asterias amurensis) • Japanese Kelp – Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) • The European Green Crab (Carcinus maenas) • Rice Grass (Spartina anglica)

An example of a marine pest, the Northern Pacific Sea Star

You can help by: • Keeping your boat and fishing gear clean. • Reporting unusual sightings of marine creatures to the Marine Pest Hotline on 0408 380 377 or 03 6233 7577. • Not emptying aquarium fish or plants into waterways. For more information www.marinepests.gov.au or www.dpipwe.tas.gov.au.


ding ests from sprea p e rin a m nt ve Help pre ng gear. ur boat and fishi by cleaning yo

Classroom activities 1. Maths – Plastic Bag Survey

How many plastic shopping bags do families in your class use in one year? ESTIMATE THEN COUNT

My Family

Whole Class

How many plastic shopping bags do you have at home now? My Guess Number Counted How many plastic shopping bags are brought home in one fortnight? My Guess Number Counted How close was your estimate? How can we reduce the number of plastic shopping bags we use?

CALCULATE - averages


How many bags per person? Divide the total number of shopping bags counted by the number of people in all the families in your class. How many bags (per person) in one month? How many bags (per person) in one year? How many bags might students and teachers at your school, collect in one year? Find out how many students and teachers there are in your school. Graph - your results



Classroom activities 2. art – get Creative!

Design and create a kite using plastic shopping bags. You could use a group of kites (or a large box kite) to display a ‘Better Bag –Better Environment’ message. Make a plastic bag windsock in the shape of a fish, jellyfish or sea bird. Cut a small hole (for a mouth) in the bottom of a bag and tape around a small ring. (The inside of a roll of sticky tape is ideal). Cut the bag handles to make a tail and gather the bag in the middle, so that some wind can be trapped inside. Decorate with streamers made from different coloured plastic bags.

3. Science - experiment

Scientists say plastic bags can take between 20 and 1,000 years to breakdown in landfill. Design and conduct an experiment to test plastic bag breakdown times under different conditions. Use 5 or 6 different plastic bags (include some that claim to be bio-degradable) Possible variables: buried in different types of soil, moisture (wet or dry soil / wet or dry ‘waste’ material inside the bag), temperature, sunlight, and oxygen. Record, graph and present your results.

Thanks for helping me to survive!


ensure a difference to ke a m to lp he althy future! everyone can t healthy for a he p ke re a ns ea oceans the oc of change, the ve a w xt ne e th Youth are s! are in our hand

References and websites Australian Marine Conservation Society www.amcs.org.au Australian Seabird Rescue www.seabirdrescue.org Clean Ocean Foundation www.cleanocean.org Clean Up Australia www.cleanup.org.au Coastcare www.coastcare.com.au CSIRO Australian Marine Research www.cmar.csiro.au Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water & Environment (DPIPWE) www.dpipwe.tas.gov.au – Sea Fishing & Aquaculture Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities www.environment.gov.au – Coasts and Marine Dolphin Research Institute www.dolphinresearch.org.au Environment Australia – Coasts & Marine www.environment.gov.au/coasts Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Tasmania www.epa.tas.gov.au Keep Australia Beautiful www.kab.org.au National System for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions www.marinepests.gov.au Ocean Planet Tasmania www.oceanplanet.org.au The Ocean Project www.theoceanproject.org REDmap: a Tasmanian initiative to spot, log and map marine species uncommon in Tasmania and report any sightings of unusual marine species. www.redmap.org.au Red Project – recycling + education = the difference www.redproject.net.au Surfrider Foundation www.surfrider.org.au Sustainable Seafood Guide www.sustainableseafood.org.au Sustainable fishing www.fishing.tas.gov.au Tangaroa Blue Ocean Care Society www.oceancare.org.au Whale rescue www.dpipwe.tas.gov.au World Oceans Day www.worldoceansday.org

Inspire yourself by recycling and creating some art and craft! For some ideas: http://hellejorgensen.typepad.com/photos/artcraft/#tp

Invent a solution:

Converting plastic to oil http://www.flixxy.com/convert-plastic-to-oil.htm


r ocean.

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This project is supported by Cradle Coast NRM, through funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country. 20

Profile for Cradle Coast Authority

Healthy Oceans for a Healthy Future  

Information and activities about threats to marine ecosystems.

Healthy Oceans for a Healthy Future  

Information and activities about threats to marine ecosystems.