Marine debris surveys

Monitoring the levels of marine debris which have been removed from beaches can provide useful information on the amount and types of materials which accumulate in certain places. Of most concern are materials which can physically harm or contaminate marine life. Plastic pollution is recognised as the greatest threat, as it can entangle or be ingested by marine animals and is the most pervasive marine debris encountered. Understanding where certain types of marine debris come from can help target sources and better inform initiatives towards reduction strategies. 

What is being done? 

In 2007, the Coast and Marine Program initiated a community clean-up to monitor levels of beach rubbish and marine debris around the coast and, where possible, determine its origins. The beach rubbish survey took place every second year until 2013, and coincided with Clean-Up Australia Day. Between 2015 & 2017 further surveys were conducted by the Federal Government’s Green Army initiative. 

What has been found? 

Since the start of the KI beach rubbish survey, nearly 1.5 tonnes of rubbish have been collected from KI's beaches. The largest collections came predominantly from the Kingscote area (Brownlow Beach), and from the southern and eastern coasts (Flour Cask and Red House bays). The most common type of litter collected was plastic, with some items collected coming from as far away as Asia, the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. 

Analysis of the source of the rubbish showed that there are almost equal amounts of terrestrial litter (rubbish dumped on land) and marine debris (rubbish washed ashore) on KI, but that patterns vary geographically. 

Marine debris are much more prevalent along the southern coast, which receives higher levels of commercial fishing and shipping. Flour Cask, Windmill and Red House bays clearly act as collection sites for large quantities of marine debris derived from these sources. The types of marine debris found include rope, bait baskets, fishing pots, floats and buoys. Terrestrial litter is found largely around townships and popular coastal camping sites and comprises mostly glass, metal and paper. The details of this survey can be found here.