The ubiquitous nature of marine debris is a growing concern worldwide. Continued monitoring of established sites will only lead to a deeper understanding of the complex problem. Beach surveys have been performed at Charlesworth Bay since July 2011. With over 3 years of beach survey data we are able to examine the temporal importance in estimating daily accumulation rates. We continue to identify the types and sources of debris. With an expanding data set experts are able to better educate and influence communities and managers to help in reducing and mitigate marine debris pollution.
Marine debris and plastic pollution specifically is an issue that is receiving global research attention. Vetger et al. (unpub) frames the issue with pertinent questions contributed by experts in the field for the future of research in this area. We know that plastics impact every marine and coastal habitat affecting marine life through ingestion and entanglement. Litter on beaches is not only unsightly but has serious economic costs associated with it (McIlgorm et al. 2011). There is growing concern for microplastics, which have been reported in almost every level of the food web (Vetger et al., unpub). Quantifying and managing the impacts of plastic pollution on marine life is a focus of current marine debris studies. Management is spurred on sound relatable science and research. Each objective of this report is nested within a question posed by Vetger et al. (unpub) and thus is timely and worth pursuing. Specifically the aims of this report are to utilize beach survey data collected at Charlesworth Bay to: (1) assess the debris according to material type, usage, and source (2) use recent data to consider the affects of temporal scale on estimating accumulation rates (3) test the hypothesis that the center of the beach is supporting a higher mean weight of debris (4) investigate solutions to the marine debris issue specific to the area.
Charlesworth Bay (30.26692 S, 153.13975 E) is a small beach north of Coffs Harbour approximately 350 m long (Smith &Markic, 2013). It is classified as a reflective beach with a steep face and wave heights typically less than 0.5m (Rollason and Goodwin, 2009 and Short 2003). The beach is located at the end of a resort access road and usage appears to be somewhat lower than other beaches in the area.
Sampling methods were identical to Smith and Markic (2013). Surface macro-debris (≥5mm) was removed from the entire beach face from the waterline to the highest strandline. In the lab debris was sorted into categories, counted, sized and weighed (weight by transect only). The study commenced in July 2011 and prior to collecting data the beach was cleared of all debris to accurately estimate accumulation rates. Beach surveys were conducted over a range of intervals from 1 to 296 days from July 2011 to August 2014, a 37 month period.
3.1 Overall quantities and composition of marine debris
For three surveys in 2012, 2013, and 2014 the same 17, 575 m2 of beach were cleared of debris and 4883 items collected. More than 85% of the debris was plastic; followed by cloth and metal at 4%; paper, glass, and other items at 1%; and wood and rubber at less than one percent (Table 1 & Fig 1).
Figure 1 Average percent composition of total debris for surveys in 2012, 2013, and 2014 Table 1 Total number of debris items categorized into 8 sections for each sampling time. Categories
The plastic category was further broken down by use according to the Tangaroa Blue Ocean Care Society resources. The percent composition of the total debris load (Fig 2) was 42%...
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