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5 June 2000
Coastcare World Environment Day 2000 Education Message
"Don’t Bag the Ocean" was the Coastcare environmental education message for World Environment Day 2000.
This important message is actively supported by Senator Robert Hill, Federal Environment Minister, marine legend Ron Taylor, and Australia’s popular author, Di Morrissey.
"Don't Bag the Ocean" highlights the problems created by plastic bags and other debris in the marine environment. Plastic bags, including bait bags, old pieces of fishing line and other bits of rubbish are life threatening to our marine creatures. Animals such as turtles and whales often swallow them and die
"Plastic bags can take over 20 years to decompose. Because they take so long to break down, a single item can actually kill more than one animal. If the animal dies after swallowing the plastic, it’s likely to decompose before the plastic which means the cycle repeats itself," Senator Hill said.
Ron Taylor added that "lost or discarded fishing gear continues to catch and kill marine species in a process that has become known as ‘ghost fishing’, a threatening process to many vulnerable and endangered marine species".
Coastcare supporter Di Morrissey says she hopes more people lend a hand and get involved in what she says is a vital cause. "Australia’s beaches and oceans are our natural gold medals. They are our heritage. Careless behaviour causes problems and we wanting to highlight that we must work cooperatively to conserve our wondrous natural resources."
Coastcare is a cooperative program between the Commonwealth, State and local Governments and industry sponsors. It directly supports community involvement to help manage Australia’s coastal and marine areas. It funds a range of activities to help protect and rehabilitate our coastline including dunes, estuaries and wetlands.
Plastic rubbish is estimated to kill more than 100,000 birds, seals and turtles worldwide every year. At any one time in Tasmanian waters there may be 500 penguins and seals wearing a "collar" of plastic, old fishing line or old nets. In the Northern Territory, fishing gear debris that washes onto the shore has been calculated at 1000kg per kilometre in some places. This is a misuse of our beaches and seas that can be so easily avoided.
Senator Hill said "What I love about Coastcare is that it makes a difference. It’s a very empowering and positive program for the people involved. Ordinary Australians are working to improve the health of our coast and that’s a great thing."
"You don’t have to be a marine biologist to want to care for our coast. Anyone can participate. There are no particular skills needed – just enthusiasm and a willingness to be part of the bigger picture of environmental management and awareness. What we want people to do is take a step forward by getting involved or spreading the message. Anyone can call 1800 803 772 and be sent a free Coastcare information kit." Senator Hill stated.
Di Morrissey says "My message to the public is that if you take it out, please bring it back". "Some people seem to think the ocean is a big anonymous rubbish bin. Or people think one beer can, one plastic bag or one cigarette butt makes no difference. It does when thousands of people start doing it and it’s terrible to think that birds and sea creatures may die a painful death because of carelessness. If someone started throwing rubbish around your house you’d be furious. Unfortunately that’s what some people do to our oceans," she said.
Ron Taylor added, "I want to see as many people as possible feeling passionate about protecting our coast. Don’t wait to be asked. Get involved by joining a Coastcare group or starting one of your own. There is an amazing variety of marine life off the coast. Our message is let’s all join together to care for our coast."