WHEN venomous sea snake Iluka was found washed up on the beach near Evans Head surf club, it was struggling to survive with a hair tie blocking its intestine.
Luckily, some passers-by spotted the distressed snake around midday on Sunday and called Australian Seabird Rescue.
Ballina Australian Seabird Rescue general manager Kath Southwell said the organisation rescues five or six sea snakes a year.
"If we get really bad storms we might get a couple more," she said. "I'd say about 40% are from rubbish.
"Some we have in care have swallowed plastic which causes them to float."
Iluka is just one of the many local marine animals injured by rubbish and waste.
She said they rescued at least one marine animal a week from rubbish-related injuries.
"It affects all types of sea life," she said.
"We had a pelican in care recently which had a very old fishing line injury.
"The skin had grown over the fishing line, so we had to remove that very carefully."
When turtles swallow plastic it causes them to float to the surface as gases build up in their stomachs.
Their shells get burnt by the sun and they slowly starve to death when the floating gases in their stomachs prevent them from diving down for food.
And it doesn't just affect sea life.
Ms Southwell said research had proven rubbish in the ocean moves up the food chain to affect people.
"When the plastic is in sea water, after quite a few years it will start releasing toxins into our environment, making us sick," she said.
She said simple steps such as using recyclable bags, taking responsibility for rubbish on the beach and not littering could prevent a lot of the injuries to local marine wildlife.
About sea snakes
- All sea snakes discovered so far are venomous and produce some of the most dangerous venom known
- Adult sea snakes grow to 120-150cm with the largest growing to 3m
- Sea snakes are usually not aggressive unless threatened
- Iluka is a Hydrophis macdowelli or small-headed sea snake, for which there is no anti-venom.