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Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2001-2004

The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP



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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

10 March 2004

Keep the sea plastic free

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today launched the Natural Heritage Trust-funded Keep the Sea Plastic Free campaign, urging Australians to take further action to reduce the devastating impact of plastic rubbish on marine wildlife.

While a recent Newspoll* shows that nine in 10 Australians are aware that plastic bags and drink bottles dumped on land are a major source of rubbish in our oceans, and eight out of 10 say that plastic bags are very dangerous to marine animals, only five out of ten saw a scrap of nylon line as very dangerous to a marine animal.

“Even a fragment of fishing line can cut into the skin of whales, seals or turtles, leading to infection or the slow and painful amputation of flippers, tails or flukes,” Dr Kemp said.

“That's why the Australian Government is working with environment groups, fishing associations and local government to get the message across: Keep the Sea Plastic Free – Bin it.

“We're calling on all Australians to take action: dispose of plastic waste in appropriate bins or recycling facilities, and return used fishing line, fishing nets and plastic packaging to shore for proper disposal.”

Dr Kemp said millions of sea birds and marine animals are placed at risk by plastic litter every year.

“Australians are using fewer plastic supermarket bags, but we're still creating too much plastic litter, which can be carried along waterways or blown hundreds of kilometres into the sea where seals, sea birds, turtles or whales mistake them for food,” he said.

“As part of the campaign, we have funded the Melbourne environment group, Sustain Ability International, to produce new interactive educational material for schools – a new Ollie's World movie for schoolchildren to accompany Ollie Saves the Planet wh ich has been distributed to every school in Australia and to schools around the world:

“During this year's Seaweek (which runs to 14 March), hundreds of local coastal councils and fishing associations will begin distributing the Keep the Sea Plastic Free posters and brochures, with their graphic pictures of marine animals damaged by plastic.

“In every square kilometre of ocean, there are more than 18,000 pieces of plastic, taking hundreds of years to break down. I urge all Australians to keep our seas plastic free – bin it.”

For fact sheet, poster and brochures: (Copies from )

*Newspoll Ocean Debris telephone study, conducted nationally among 1200 respondents aged 18+ years, over 27-29 February 2004.

Marine plastic facts

All plastic is dangerous to marine animals:

Turtles, whales and sea birds may be severely injured and even die after entanglement with fishing lines, fragments of trawl netting or plastic packing straps. Seabirds caught up in marine debris may lose their ability to move quickly through the water, reducing their ability to catch prey and avoid predators; or they may suffer constricted circulation, leading to asphyxiation and death. Fishing line debris, nets and ropes cut into the skin of whales or turtles, leading to infection or the slow and painful amputation of flippers, tails or flukes.

Turtles frequently eat plastic bags, confusing them with jellyfish, their common prey. Sea birds eat polystyrene balls and plastic buoys, confusing them with fish eggs and crustaceans, and the Humpback, Southern Right and Blue Whales eat a range of plastic debris.

Endangered species: Loggerhead Turtle, Southern Right Whale, Blue Whale, Tristan Albatross, Northern Royal Albatross, Gould's Petrel.

Vulnerable species: Leatherback Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Flatback Turtle, Green Turtle, Wandering Albatross, Humpback Whale, Antipodean Albatross, and Gibson's Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Grey Nurse Shark, Grey-headed Albatross, Blue Petrel, Northern Giant Petrel.

Plastic facts


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Turtle with plastic bag stuck in mouth

Turtle with plastic bag Photo: Melbourne Zoo

Turtle entangled in fishing line

Turtle with fishing line Photo: Dr Col Limpus

plastic bag buried in the sand

Plastic bag buried in sand

Commonwealth of Australia