The Marine chapter of the 2016 State of the Environment (SoE) report incorporates multiple expert templates developed from streams of marine data. This metadata record describes the Case Study "Pressures on the marine environment associated with marine debris". The full Case Study, including figures and tables (where provided), is attached to this record. Where available, the Data Stream(s) used to generate this Case Study are accessible through the "On-line Resources" section of this record.
DESCRIPTION OF THE FOCUS OF THE CASE STUDY Marine debris is recognized as a globally important stressor in the marine environment, with increasing reports of impacts on marine biodiversity reported during the last four decades and upwards of 6-12 million metric tons of plastic waste entering the oceans each year. However, this pressure was not included in the 2011 assessment, but was identified as an emerging issue in the previous SoE report. Marine litter includes consumer items such as glass or plastic bottles, cans, bags, balloons, rubber, metal, fiberglass, cigarettes and other manufactured materials that end up in the ocean and along the coast, and other materials intentionally or unintentionally discarded at sea. In Australia, marine debris has been identified as a key threatening process for threatened and endangered vertebrate fauna, with approximately ¾ of items found on beaches being comprised of plastic polymers. Marine litter also has socioeconomic impacts, it acts as a transporter of invasive species, can be a navigation hazard and there are increasing concerns over the human health risks due to food security issues from seafood. With estimates of ¾ or more of marine debris coming from land-based sources and continued growth in plastics production and usage, marine debris is a ubiquitous problem, with high but variable concentrations of marine debris found both in coastal and marine environments.
PRESSURES/ISSUES OF IMPORTANCE Marine fauna as small as plankton and as large as cetaceans are known interact with marine debris; with entanglement, ingestion and chemical contamination the three main types of interaction. Corals, lugworms, molluscs, commercial fish, seabirds sea turtles, sea snakes, pinnipeds, whales and dolphins are all reported to be impacted by marine debris, with significant quantities of plastics reported in the digestive tracts of several species of marine vertebrates in Australian waters.
DATA STREAM(S) USED IN CASE STUDY Concentrations [of marine debris] derived from a single survey around Australian coastline and at sea, carried out between 2011-2013 as well as data and analyses presented in peer review publications, a recent review of the TAP for marine debris.