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Marine debris

Marine debris, also known as marine litter, includes all human-created materials that has deliberately or accidentally been released into the ocean or other water environments.

Litter that ends up in or near the water can be very damaging to animals and the physical environment, but there are things we can do every day to help stop debris entering marine environments in the first place.

If you like to walk along Eurobodalla Shire's beautiful beaches, explore rock platforms, or wet a line from time to time, then we would love your help.

The Eurobodalla Marine Debris Working Group explores ways to address marine debris, especially plastic items, that threaten our local marine environment.

The group includes divers, fishers, surfers, school groups, conservation groups, and scientists from the Eurobodalla Shire and the ACT.

We work together to:

  • clean-up debris from our beaches
  • track where the debris has come from and work out ways to stop debris from entering the marine environment.

The working group is always interested in new members. It's easy to participate, and you can add the marine debris you collect onto the Australian Marine Debris Database.

Clyde the Little Penguin Project is a federally-funded initiative aimed at improving the habitat of Little Penguin colonies on the Clyde Estuary, by removing marine debris and weeds from their habitat.

Eurobodalla Shire students will be involved in the removal of marine debris at sites inhabited by the Little Penguin along the foreshore of the Clyde River, Batemans Bay. The students will collect data about the items they find in the clean-ups using the Australian Marine Debris Database, and use this information to develop educational material to help the local community reduce their impacts on the Little Penguins' environment.

According to the Tangaroa Blue Australian Marine Debris Initiative database, fishing line is among the top ten most littered items in Australia. It remains in the aquatic environment long after it is discarded, where it can kill and injure marine life and pose a safety threat to children and pets.

Birds are particularly likely to suffer from discarded line. Birds often visit fishing areas, and fishing line is nearly invisible to a bird looking for food. It is very easy for fishing lines they cannot see to entangle around one or both legs, slowly tightening and causing the limb to swell. Fishing line can't expand, so it cuts deeply into the bird, causing great pain and restricting the bird's ability to move and feed. After time, the line will cut right through the bone and amputate the affected part. Australian Seabird Rescue estimates that 94% of rescued pelicans suffer from fishing tackle hooking or entanglement.

Seagull legs with fishing line wrapped around one legPelican with fishing hook in face

Purpose of the fishing tackle debris bins

Once you're aware of the problem, the solution is easy: be on the lookout for any discarded fishing debris, pick it up and put it in the bin.

Council has installed fishing tackle debris bins at popular fishing locations throughout Eurobodalla Shire for beachgoers and anglers to use. The bins keep unwanted fishing tackle secure so it can be safely disposed. The bins also encourage anglers to keep their fishing spot tidy, which reduces litter and has the added bonus of creating a better fishing experience.

Installing fishing tackle debris bins at various fishing spots around Eurobodalla Shire aims to:

  • protect animals from injury and death associated with fishing line entanglement, hooks, eating fishing tackle debris, etc
  • raise awareness about the hazards associated with waste fishing line and tackle, and the importance of correctly disposing of fishing waste
  • protect the environments that are in direct threat from waste build-up and pollution
  • ensure local vegetation is kept free from fishing line litter.

We've also installed fishing tackle debris bins at popular visitor destination areas like camping grounds, tourist parks and boat ramps. These will encourage visitors to be more aware of the impacts that incorrectly discarded fishing line, hooks, lures, sinkers and bait bags have on wildlife and the environment.

Be a responsible fisher

As well as using our fishing tackle debris bins, here are some actions you can take to reduce the impact of your fishing experience on the surrounding marine environment:

  • use environmentally-friendly fishing tackle, such as lead-alternative sinkers, biodegradable fishing line, and non-stainless steel hooks. Traditional fishing materials can take years to break down in the environment. By making the switch you will help reduce the impact snagged lines and hooks have on marine life.
  • Use the appropriate gear for the fish you are after, such as hook size.
  • Dispose of fish waste responsibly.
  • Dispose of all fishing and/or general litter in the bin, or take it home with you.
  • Use circle hooks, as these increase the chance of survival for fish that are released.
  • Avoid using nets.
  • Collect and bin any discarded fishing line, other fishing gear or rubbish. Where no bins are available, please take it home with you.
  • Be on the lookout for birds that may take bait.
  • Don't leave baited hooks and lines unattended or out of water, and avoid bird feeding areas.
  • Find out more about responsible fishing on the NSW Government Department of Primary Industries.

Get involved and make a difference

We need more volunteers to empty and monitor the fishing tackle debris bins so that we can place more bins in the community.

If you'd like to get involved, please contact us:

Cigarette butts (and their packaging) are the most-littered item nationally, according to the National Litter Index.

  • Over seven billion cigarette butts are discarded in Australia each year.
  • Littered cigarette butts can potentially cause bushfires.
  • When it rains, cigarette butts in streets and gutters are carried via stormwater directly into our beaches and rivers.

Cigarette butts in our waterways present a serious environmental hazard.

  • Cigarette butts can take up to 12 months to break down in freshwater and up to 5 years to break down in seawater.
  • Birds and aquatic animals can mistake the butts as food, resulting in serious digestive problems that may lead to death.
  • Butts have been found in the stomachs of young birds, fish, sea turtles and other marine creatures.
  • Toxic chemicals such as lead and cadmium trapped in the cigarette filter, can leach out in water. The chemicals found in one cigarette butt contaminate approximately 7.5 litres of water within one hour.

Smokers can be part of the solution

Smokers can help by:

  • carrying a portable ashtray (an empty mint tin is perfect for this)
  • using smoker stations and bins provided in public places - many retail centres have installed butt bins in strategic places where smoking is permitted, specifically to make it easier to do the right thing
  • avoid smoking on our beaches and near waterways at all times
  • at home, once extinguished, dispose of all cigarette butts and ash in your red lid general waste bin.

As well as reducing harm to the environment, disposing of your cigarette butts responsibly will allow you to avoid being fined for littering. Flicking cigarettes from your vehicle, stubbing out and flicking butts onto public areas such as footpaths, roads, gutters, bus shelters and outside office buildings are all offences that carry fines. You can also be fined for the incorrect disposal of your cigarette butt at any time under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

Report a cigarette butt tosser

If you see someone throwing a cigarette butt from a car, you can report the incident to Council Rangers on 4474 1019, or online to the NSW EPA. You will need the following details before you submit your report:

  • your contact information
  • vehicle registration details (number, state)
  • description of the vehicle (type, make, model, colour)
  • date, time and location of the incident
  • part of the vehicle the cigarette was ejected from
  • details of the occupant of the vehicle who ejected the cigarette
  • whether the cigarette was lit or not.

More information

For more information about littering (cigarette butts) and the impact it can have on our environment, please contact our Environment Team:

Restrictions on balloon releases

  • The release of balloons is banned at Eurobodalla Shire Council events and in Council-managed reserves.
  • It is illegal to release 20 or more gas-inflated balloons at or about the same time under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. The balloons should not have any attachments. On-the-spot fines can be given and penalties are much higher if over 100 balloons are released.

What goes up must come down

Balloons are often used for special occasions such as launches, birthdays, weddings and funerals, but balloons don't stay in the sky forever.

A 2016 CSIRO study identified that balloons are in the top three most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife, along with plastic bags and bottles.

Approximately 95 per cent of released balloons burst in the atmosphere and litter small pieces of plastic to the earth. The remaining five per cent do not reach a high enough altitude to burst and instead drift hundreds of kilometres before descending to land or sea.

When balloons or parts of them eventually come back down:

  • pieces can land in the sea where they get mistaken for food by birds and marine wildlife
  • balloons can block animals' digestive tracts, which can be fatal
  • wildlife can get tangled in the ribbons and strings, restricting their movement and ability to eat, and cause drowning.

Use environmentally-friendly alternatives

With so many alternatives on offer, you can just stop using balloons at home and in the workplace, inside or outside. Some fun alternatives with less impact on the environment include:

  • blowing bubbles: Make a bubble solution so you can blow bubbles and let the breeze carry them skyward. Don't forget to dispose of the plastic receptacles responsibly.
  • virtual balloons: Consider having a virtual balloon release online with your family and friends.
  • ribbon wands: There's something whimsical and ceremonious about waving ribbons through the air.
  • planting native trees or seeds as a symbol of new beginnings and a gift to the environment.
  • lighting candles to remember a loved one or celebrate a new life - candles made from environmentally-friendly materials are readily available and provide an easy option to celebrate or commemorate.
  • save your decoration budget and donate to your favourite cause or charity.
  • hang some bunting or pom poms on your door or gate instead of balloons.
  • flying streamers, banners or flags and let the wind make them dance.
  • floating flowers: Float your loved one's favourite flowers or petals down a stream.
  • flying kites at funerals and in memory of the departed is a tradition that is thousands of years old. Making and flying kites is a way to honour your loved one and often brings feelings of awe, tranquility and peace to those grieving.
  • coloured lights or a mass gathering of people to create a shape, word or image can be unifying and beautiful.
  • purchase or make your own pinwheels. A pinwheel can be a reminder of the constancy of the eternal human spirit that resides in each of us.
  • hold your event in the garden and let the native plants be your decoration.

What about biodegradable balloons?Popped balloons on beach resemble jelly fish

In reality, there is no such thing as biodegradable balloons. When talking about plastics, the term biodegradable means that an item will break down into smaller pieces when exposed to microorganisms in the environment.

Balloons can take years to break down, even the biodegradable ones. This allows plenty of time for the balloons to travel and encounter many animals that may mistake them for a tasty snack, or accidentally get entangled in them.

Even degraded remnants of balloons can be harmful to animals that ingest them.

While natural latex may be biodegradable, the addition of chemicals and dyes in balloon manufacture can make balloons labelled as 'biodegradable' persist for many years in the environment. Balloons that are released into the environment, even for a short time, can cause harm.

Many animals mistake burst biodegradable latex balloons as food, causing intestinal blockage and death. Sea turtles are particularly at risk because they naturally prey on jellyfish, which balloons can be easily mistaken for, even with human eyes.

More information

Council has installed stormwater drain baskets (Drain Buddies) along areas of our coast adjacent to our many waterways. The Drain Buddy is a heavy-duty basket that captures street litter, sediment and organic debris before it reaches the waterway.

Litter dropped on roadsides, pathways and gutters usually end up in the stormwater system. In some areas, Council has installed Gross Pollutant Traps (commonly called GPTs). GPTs catch stormwater pollution before it enters waterways. GPTs act like a filter, retaining litter but allowing water to flow through. Not all areas are suitable for GPTs, however Drain Buddies are ideal for these areas.

Council staff clean and record all the litter in the Drain Buddies four times a year. Council then records the findings on the Australian Marine Debris Initiatives database. By recording the litter findings, we can monitor how well the Drain Buddies are working and identify what items we are capturing. This allows us to look at the source of the litter and develop programs that target this source and eliminate it.

Two men and woman standing holding a drain buddy by the water

More information

Contact us

If you need more information about our Drain Buddy Program, please contact our Natural Resource Management Officer, Tom Gear:

Australian Marine Debris Database

The Tangaroa Blue Foundation hosts the Australian Marine Debris Database, where debris collectors can log each debris item they find. Having a national collection helps record objective data about the issue, and gives us a better understanding about trends and movements of marine debris so groups across Australia can collaborate on bigger solutions.

We use this data to find out where the debris is coming from, so we can work to prevent the debris from entering the marine environment in the first place.

Get the app

You can now download the Australian Marine Debris initiative app to use on your Android or Apple devices. Get the app:

Find out more about the app and how it is used in Australian and international research on the Tangaroa Blue Foundation website.

How to use the app

This short video will show you how to use the app to collect data:

Get involved

To get involved with local marine debris clean-up activities, contact our Environmental Education Officer, Bernadette Davis: