Every year tens of thousands of marine animals and seabirds die from eating or getting tangled up in marine debris – or trash in the ocean. Marine debris also damages habitats, makes coastal areas unattractive to visit and is expensive to remove. As much as seventy percent of the rubbish entering our ocean sinks to the seafloor; only divers have the skills to tackle underwater marine debris.
Research has shown that marine debris affects 663 marine species. Over half of the reports documented entanglement in and ingestion of marine debris that affected all known species of sea turtles, about half of all species of marine mammals, and one-fifth of all species of sea birds.
Many wildlife deaths happen when animals and seabirds eat marine debris. A piece of marine debris can choke an animal if it catches in its throat. Once swallowed many marine debris items, especially plastics, cannot be digested. A stomach full of plastic makes the animal feel like it no longer needs to feed and can lead to starvation. In some species of sea turtles, fish, seabirds, mussels and marine mammals almost all individuals have plastics in their stomachs. A study of northern fulmar seabirds found dead on beaches showed 95 percent had plastic in their stomachs. Each bird had swallowed an average of 35 plastic pieces.
We often see marine debris washed up on beaches, but as much as 70 percent sinks to the seafloor. The need to address the marine debris issue is urgent.
What is This Marine Debris Stuff?
Marine debris is our waste in the ocean. From everyday litter like plastic bags, food wrappers, drink bottles and cigarette butts, to car batteries, kitchen appliances, enormous fishing nets and industrial waste, the trash we allow in the ocean is turning our beautiful reefs, beaches and seagrass meadows into rubbish dumps.
Many of our waste products, including plastics, do not biodegrade – instead they break down into smaller pieces that remain a danger to marine life as they are easily mistaken for food. It is estimated that more than six million tons of rubbish enters our ocean every year. The waste products of our growing population are choking our ocean planet.
So can we really fix this mess? The marine debris problem seems so big – can divers really make a difference? Yes we can, by working together locally, nationally and internationally on the many changes needed to fix this mess.
You can become effectively involved and properly trained by taking the Project AWARE Dive Against Marine Debris course. The course aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills to complete Dive Against Debris surveys including the removal of marine debris underwater, and reporting the data online. These submissions aim to bring:
Changes in policies that make individuals, businesses and governments better manage waste.
Changes in infrastructure to physically block trash before it reaches the ocean.
Changes in regulations to better manage the things we make and how we make them – from manufacturing, to use, recycling and disposal.
Changes in attitudes and behaviours so we can rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle our way out of this mess.
To make long-term improvements individuals, businesses and governments need to make changes that stop rubbish from entering the ocean. For the best results, these changes must be driven by an accurate picture of the extent of the marine debris problem.
By completing Dive Against Debris surveys you help build that picture from an underwater perspective. The data you collect through Dive Against Debris helps drive changes that protect marine life and marine environments.
Building a Picture
Dive Against Debris surveys and the data submitted are essential to help drive change and inform policy. Completing regular Dive Against Debris surveys at the same location over time is the best way to build a comprehensive database and identify hotspot areas where waste management needs to be prioritised. Use this course to build a team of surveyors who regularly complete Dive Against Debris surveys.
You can book your Dive Against Debris course here with Scubafish. Let us show you the importance of looking after the Ocean and how you can become a part of that with every dive.