Sea Shepherd Australia and local communities around the country coming together to keep our oceans free of marine debris

beach cleanupOur oceans and marine life are in serious trouble from the increasing problem of marine debris.

In Australia, most marine debris off our coast originates from Australian sources. Surveys at coastal sites across Australia found that approximately three-quarters of the marine debris along our coast is plastic, with debris concentrated near urban centres.

Marine debris is the most common man-made object sighted at sea with18,000 pieces of plastic litter reported to be floating on every square kilometre of the world's oceans, outnumbering sea life at a ratio of 6 to 1.

Each year millions of tonnes of marine debris enter our oceans and waterways injuring and killing more than a million birds and 100 million marine animals (including fish, turtles, whales) through entanglement, suffocation and ingestion.

Toxins including DDT, BPA and methyl mercury adhere to microplastic particles, and then enter the food chain when ingested by aquatic life, accumulating in birds, fish, marine mammals and potentially humans.

The time for action is now, we have no choice but to act.

Sea Shepherd Australia’s Marine Debris Campaign brings together the efforts of all chapters in Australia and the community to keep beaches and waterways cleaner and safer for marine life while collecting data for national analysis.

Volunteers from Sea Shepherd Australia are committed to promoting and facilitating family friendly coastal and river clean-up activities in support of the protection and conservation of their local marine environment.

Participants collect, sort, catalogue and record every piece of debris collected, with data inputted to the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) database. The database is accessed by scientists and researchers to determine the top debris items and hot spots around the coastline for rubbish.

We invite you to join our Australian Marine Debris Team and be part of the solution.

All clean-up events are detailed on our dedicated Sea Shepherd Australia Marine Debris Campaign Facebook page.

cleanup crew

Offshore Clean-up Activities

Local beach and river clean-ups complement clean-up activities undertaken by Sea Shepherd crew during offshore campaigns:

  • Crew from Sea Shepherd Australia’s monitoring vessel Bruce the Rib, which operates from a base in Perth, Western Australia regularly undertakes coastal (Indian Ocean) and Swan River clean-ups. The vessel utilises a Manta Trawl, a net system for sampling the surface of the ocean, capturing marine debris. The device has 60cm wide mouth that dips 25cm into the sea surface. Towed at the side of the vessel at 2-3 knots, the removable sock at the end of the net cleverly captures discarded marine litter. The Manta Trawl has been utilised at a remote atoll of Cocos Keeling Islands and along the coastline along Perth and in the Swan River area. Members in Sea Shepherd Australia’s Marine Debris Team is collaborating with 5 Gyres Institute and Scab Duty Melbourne when working with this system.

  • During Sea Shepherd’s Operation Driftnet campaign in early 2016, crew from our flagship Steve Irwin confiscated a four kilometre section of an illegal driftnet as evidence.This floating “curtain of death” contained the bodies of 321 animals including blue sharks, numerous non-target species of smaller pelagic fish, critically endangered Bluefin tuna, dolphins and seals. Driftnets have been banned under by the United Nations since 1992. When driftnets are abandoned or lost they become what is known as ‘ghostnets’ and continue to indiscriminately entangle wildlife whilst the nets disintegrate. Present day driftnets are made of nylon (plastic) and can measure up to 50km in length.
  • In 2015, the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker collected microplastics, using a piece of equipment called a AVANI Trawl, from the water during Sea Shepherd's Pilot Whale Defense Campaign, Operation Sleppid Grindini in collaboration with the 5 Gyres Institute. The AVANI Trawl has a 15cm wide mouth that is designed to skim the sea surface up to 8 knots in calm seas. Officers on bridge-watch also engaged in surface plastic observations during the campaign.
  • Sea Shepherd’s Operation Icefish Campaign in the Southern Ocean in 2014/2015, saw the Sea Shepherd ship Sam Simon haul in a massive 72 kilometres of gillnet that the illegal Patagonian toothfish vessel known as the Thunder abandoned when it began to flee from the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker. It took the crew over 200 hours to haul in some 70 tonnes of gear and sadly, 1,081 toothfish were retrieved from the abandoned gillnets.

Sea Shepherd crew finds a dead shark in a net. Photo: Tim Watters

Bob Barker crew trawl for debris.

Dead shark in net. Photo: Tim Watters

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