Home Science CSIRO kicks off biggest marine pollution survey

CSIRO kicks off biggest marine pollution survey

The CSIRO has begun what it says is the world's largest marine pollution survey, in collaboration with other countries, to find out the extent of pollution and examine steps to reduce the litter that enters the oceans.

Among the countries collaborating are some of the top 20 polluters, including China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and the US. Additionally, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan are involved.

CSIRO senior scientist Dr Denise Hardesty said the project would use data from collections on coastlines and cities to find out how much litter was entering the ocean.

“Up until now we’ve been relying on estimates from World Bank data, so this will be the first time anyone has brought together a group of countries to look at exactly how much litter is entering the oceans,” she said.

“We will be able to see where the hotspots lie by looking at how people, wind, the shape of the land and storm water moves rubbish into the ocean and then give advice on how to improve this based on science-based interventions.”

Ocean pollution choking parts of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Ocean pollution choking parts of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

The project's first training workshop will be held in South Korea next week, with representatives from five partner countries participating.

Our Seas of East Asia Network’s Dr Sunwook Hong, who is leading South Korea, said the problem could only be tackled through a global approach.

“By co-ordinating our approach we will be able to achieve some quick wins and know where to set our sights for more long-term goals,” Dr Hong said.

The project has been announced two months after Dr Hardesty spoke to the first G20 summit on marine pollution, and on World Ocean Day, which is focused on plastic pollution in 2017.

“We know that almost all litter starts off in someone’s hand, and from there it finds it ways from land to the ocean, where it breaks up into smaller pieces,” Dr Hardesty said.

“This means if we can stop the rubbish from entering the ocean, we can make real headway in resolving the problem.

“Along with causing marine and environmental problems, things like plastic bags can also cause storm water drains to become blocked, leading to significant localised flooding and serious health risks for local people.”

Dr Hardesty and her team have been researching marine debris for many years and have quantified the amount of litter on the entire Australian coastline and also reported on the number of seabirds and other wildlife that are eating plastic.

The project is a collaboration between CSIRO, Schmidt Marine Technology Partners and the Oak Family Foundation.

Images courtesy Sustainable Coastlines.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.