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Marine Debris Survey of the Australian Coast

To survey and document the marine debris at random intervals along the coastline of Australia for during the circumnavigation voyage.


When the opportunity arises to venture ashore, the crew of the vessel will participate in marine debris collection for sorting and disposal.

Create a standardized methodological system of retrieving, not only the debris itself, but in the way the collection is carried out and the form in which is used.

The information is then to be catalogued and documented so that it can be presented as a document /paper and presented to Coastcare to add to the national marine debris database.

Findings are expected to highlight the type of human created marine debris washed up on the shoreline, where it has its origins and what can be done to alleviate the problem.


Go ashore (preferably in pairs) and collect all human created marine debris.

Debris is to be piled in heaps at intervals along the shore where it can be taken to the ship.

When on board the rubbish can then be catalogued into plastics, foam, glass, wood, metal and others. The form to do the cataloguing will be completed and added to the database.

The rubbish will then be set aside for transport to port facilities.


The coastal marine environment is, unfortunately, the last place for many by-products of modern society to find a resting place either sourced from beach goers, land litter (from drains and streams) and maritime operations. Marine debris is a danger to marine wildlife through entanglement, ingestion of plastics, and has wide ranging implications for fisheries and tourism operations (SOMER 1996).

While little is known about the exact numbers associated with marine debris, it has been ranked in the top five major pollutants of the oceans. Estimated at seven million tons the main items are plastics, glass, metal and rubber including bottles, containers, fishing gear and thongs, with plastics topping the list as the most commonly sited material (WWF 2002).

In highlighting the differences around the continent, the coastline has been divided into four major regions taking in the eastern, northern, western and southern coasts. The southern and eastern coasts will be further divided into two sections to accommodate for their vastness.

Eastern coasts

For the northern east coasts of Australia (Fraser Island to Cape York) the physical characteristics of the coastline is a mixture of coral reefs or islands off shore and beaches with rocky headlands fronting estuarine river systems dominated by mangrove and paperbark forests. Agricultural, urban and protected areas feature as the main land uses, and while the climate is warm tropical to subtropical, the vegetation is dominated by dry schlerophyll/open wooded and grassland areas with small pockets of tropical rainforests in the far north.

The most popular items of marine debris found along the coastline were plastic pieces (caps, lids and pieces), beverage bottles (glass and plastic), thongs (including sandels and shoes) and rope. In all over 2000 items where catalogued from 4 kilometres of randomly exposed coastline, taking the average to 444.44 items per kilometre.

Northern coasts

The physical geography of the northern Australian coastline is one marked by extensive mudflats, rocky headlands and mangroves with scattered beaches. Much of the land use is of agricultural, aboriginal, national park/world heritage area and mining. The surrounding marine environment is harvested for its rich and diverse fish life such as prawn, crab, barramundi and red emperor. Much of the terrestrial environment is dry tropical and only experiences heavy rainfall in the wet season, and therefore the vegetation ranges from desert/savannah, dry scrub and dry, mangrove and paperbark forests.

The most popular items of marine debris in the northern region were pieces of trawl net, rope, miscellaneous plastics and beverage cans. The total count for the northern region amounted to 474 items over 11.45 kilometres of exposed coastline averaging out to 41.39 items per kilometre.


PO Box 187 . Pyrmont . NSW . 2009
GPO Box 1330 . Hobart . Tasmania .7001
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