The Australian Government will revise its national marine debris plan to limit the damage that plastic and other waste products cause to Australia’s marine life.
Marine debris – garbage washed from land or dumped by ships at sea and abandoned fishing gear – poses a serious danger to all sea creatures. Marine species can ingest or get entangled in marine debris, causing injury and often leading to a slow, painful death.
Harmful marine debris is recognised as a threat to the survival of 20 species already listed as threatened or endangered under Australia’s national environment law. These include loggerhead and flatback turtles, southern right and blue whales, and bird species such as Gould’s petrel and northern royal albatross.
The Government will ensure that a new threat abatement plan tackles the existing threats posed by marine debris, including the impact of micro plastics and associated toxins on wildlife.
Protecting sea creatures and marine life is a vital part of commitment to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
Micro plastics, including the microbeads used in a range of consumer products, are entering our waterways and being ingested by marine organisms, and there is growing concern about their potential impacts on the food webs of our marine life.
The damaging effects of marine debris on the environment, including our marine ecosystems, are a serious concern for the Australian Government. This concern is shared by our state and territory counterparts as highlighted during the February 2015 environment ministers meeting.
To reduce the amount of plastic waste in our environment, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory have already taken strong action and banned the supply of lightweight non-biodegradable plastic bags.
New South Wales and South Australia have agreed to lead work on a jurisdictional phase down of microbeads.
Future efforts to manage the impacts of marine debris on our environment must be guided by the most up-to-date research.
The new threat abatement plan will set directions for marine debris research and management activities.
The Government will widely consult with marine debris and wildlife experts as it drafts the new plan. The Australian community will be able to comment on a draft of the plan later this year.