Spot of trouble: Australian Seabird Rescue general manager, Keith Williams, examines X-rays of a green turtle that had swallowed a plastic bag.
Spot of trouble: Australian Seabird Rescue general manager, Keith Williams, examines X-rays of a green turtle that had swallowed a plastic bag. Rebecca Lollback

Plastic is killing our marine life

THE next time you are asked if you want a plastic bag at the supermarket, spare a thought for Spot.

The green turtle was found on Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head several weeks ago, and X-rays confirmed the fears of carers at Ballina’s Australian Seabird Rescue – Spot had swallowed a plastic bag.

If he hadn’t been rescued by ASR and carefully monitored, it’s likely that Spot would have died.

But a second X-ray last week showed Spot is now plastic-free.

This kind of scenario is becoming increasingly common, says ASR general manager Keith Williams.

He said waterways on the Northern Rivers were becoming more polluted every year, threatening many endangered marine animals.

That’s why he is involved with a new marine research project being jointly run by ASR and the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority.

It aims to get a clearer picture of the levels of marine debris in the local area.

ASR will work with other wildlife groups – including Northern Rivers and Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers, WIRES in the Clarence and Tweed as well as National Parks and Marine Parks – to gauge the number of animals injured by marine debris.

This will provide a ‘region-wide snapshot’.

Project co-ordinator Kathrina Southwell said the goal was to improve marine resource management and conservation.

“We know the negative impacts of marine debris are a big problem, and it seems to be getting worse,” she said.

“Some of the incidents that stick in my mind are a Northern Giant Petrel that was brought to our attention having swallowed a balloon and its tie-string.

“We also had a Hawksbill sea turtle that was extremely congested, until she passed a 30cm long piece of plastic rope, which had been blocking her stomach and would have eventually killed her.

“Fortunately, both of these animals were able to be rehabilitated and returned to the wild, but a lot have died due to plastic. Even greater numbers die in the wild from ingestion of plastic or entanglement in marine debris and are never reported.”



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