Marine Debris Tracking Program

WWF became involved in the marine debris issue in response to concerns raised by Traditional Owners in north-east Arnhem Land about the amount of debris washing ashore on northern Australia’s remote beaches. They were also concerned about the number of stranded marine animals found caught in derelict nets, particularly threatened and protected species such as marine turtles, dolphins and whales.

Our field staff saw the need for a hands-on, long-term approach to combat marine debris. WWF teams with many partners, whose support is critical to achieving improved conservation in the region. Key partners include:
  • Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation
  • Marthakal Homelands Centre
  • Lianthawirriyarra Sea Rangers
  • Anindilyakwa Land Council
  • Umbakumba and Angurugu communities
  • Tiwi Land Council
  • Conservation Volunteers Australia
  • Northern Land Council
  • Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service
  • Northern Territory Government - Fisheries Group
  • Northern Territory Seafood Council
  • commercial fishers
  • Department of Environment and Heritage
  • Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management (Charles Darwin University)
  • Arafura Timor Seas Expert Forum (ATSEF).

The Marine Debris Tracking Program sees WWF work with Aboriginal communities, Indigenous Sea Rangers and other partners to survey the amount, type and probable origin of marine debris washing ashore. We have survey sites at Cape Arnhem, Groote Eylandt, Elcho Island, Cobourg Peninsula and Bing Bong Port, near Borroloola. The results help plan, implement and monitor the success of national and international management actions designed to reduce marine debris.
In addition, we have:
  • produced The Net Kit, to help identify discarded fishing nets found at sea or collected during marine debris surveys. The Net Kit details net colour, mesh size, twine size and, where possible, the probable country of origin
     
  • established the National Marine Debris Database, which contains the results of marine debris surveys conducted by WWF and other groups around Australia, including reports of derelict nets found at sea and recorded instances of wildlife entanglement
     
  • advocated for marine protected areas (for the conservation and management of marine turtles) by taking part in the Northern Regional Marine Planning process, which forms part of Australian Governments Oceans Policy.