Original story at ABC News
Three-quarters of the trash found off Australian beaches is plastic, a new study says, warning that the rubbish is entangling and being swallowed by wildlife.
Litter impacts wildlife through entanglement and ingestion, with 43 per cent of seabirds from study discovered with plastic in their gut.
Researchers surveyed the vast Australian coastline at intervals of about 100 kilometres, compiling the world's largest collection of marine debris data, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said.
"We found about three-quarters of the rubbish along the coast is plastic," CSIRO scientist Denise Hardesty said.
"Most is from Australian sources, not the high seas, with debris concentrated near cities."
The report, part of a three-year marine debris research and education program developed by Earthwatch Australia with CSIRO and energy group Shell, found there were two main drivers of the pollution - littering and illegal dumping.
Rubbish found included glass and plastic bottles, cans, bags, balloons, pieces of rubber, metal and fibreglass, as well as fishing gear and other items lost or discarded in or near the sea.
The report said this marine debris not only posed a navigation hazard but could smother coral reefs, transport invasive species, harm tourism and kill and injure wildlife.
It warned that litter impacted wildlife through entanglement and ingestion, but also indirectly via the chemicals it introduced into marine ecosystems.
Smaller turtle species in particular ingested the debris, possibly because soft, clear plastic resembled its natural prey jellyfish. Continue reading »