Marine Debris on the Great Barrier Reef
Did you know?
Seven billion tonnes of various types of litter enter the world's oceans every year.
A survey of islands and coral cays adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park found the most common forms of litter to be plastics, rubber, glass and polystyrene. There are approximately 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in each square mile of our oceans.
In 2000, a rare Bryde's whale died near Cairns and when examined, its stomach was compacted with almost six square metres of plastic sheets, bait bags, zip top bags, fertiliser bags, several metres of plastic strips, supermarket bags and frayed rope pieces.
The Environmental Protection Agency maintains a database of marine wildlife strandings and deaths. This records information on where injured, dying and dead marine cetaceans (whales and dolphins), pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), dugong and turtles have been found in Queensland. Marine Animal Stranding Reports are produced annually and data from these reports indicates that in the year 1999, 13 turtles died through the ingestion of synthetic material including fishing line, plastic, balloons and bait bags.
In the year 2000, 11 turtles died through the ingestion of synthetic material.
It is an offence to deposit litter in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known as MARPOL 73/78 also prohibits the disposal of all other types of garbage within 12 nautical miles from the nearest land. The law provides for fines of up to $1.3 million for companies and $260,000 for individuals illegally discharging garbage at sea.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is actively involved in a number of litter education programs through initiatives such as the Reef Guardian Schools Program. The Reef Guardian Schools Program is targeted at schools along the Great Barrier Reef coast and is an action-based school participation program with a focus on issues currently affecting the Great Barrier Reef. Further information regarding the Reef Guardian Schools Program can be found in our Reef Guardian section or by contacting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on (07) 4750 0850.