Storms, swells and erosion delivered large quantities of plastic debris onto Western Australian beaches during 2013. The message is clear – there is a large quantity of plastic polluting the oceans and there is a large quantity of plastic buried and embedded within the coastal system. Most of this plastic is fragmented. The long term average proportion of plastic remnants in WA clean-ups is 46%. Fishing items follow with 9%. Plastic fragments are therefore the main legacy of growing levels of plastics entering the ocean over the decades since mid-last century.
Every day plastic items together with fishing items continue to be discharged into the system. Curbing this discharge is not hard in the practical sense, but it is hard in the realm of changing behaviour and overcoming complacency and inertia in ourselves, and in our governance and business structures. In this year’s report we begin with an update on several source reduction issues where these challenges are evident. The WA Beach Clean-up data summary looks at the levels of plastic fragments entering the system this year together with clean-up data from all sites. Following this in the section on the South West Marine Debris Project, data from monitoring sites is compared to data from less frequently cleaned sites along the Capes coast to explore the impact of long term clean-ups on local sites.
We would like to acknowledge our major project partners Coastwest, Keep Australia Beautiful Council – WA, The Department of Fisheries and the South West Catchments Council for their continued support of this event. Finally a big thanks to all involved for your enthusiasm, generosity and persistence.