Australia spearheads mapping of water pollution entering world’s oceans

Posted 21 June 2017

Beach and ocean litterCSIRO is undertaking the world's largest water pollution survey to assess and reduce litter entering oceans around the world.

CSIRO will be joined in this endeavour by some of the world's top 20 polluters, including China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and the United States, as well as other countries such as South Korea and Taiwan.

“Up until now we've been relying on estimates from 2010 World Bank data, so this will be the first time anyone has brought together a group of countries to look at exactly how much litter is entering the oceans,” said CSIRO Senior Scientist Dr Denise Hardesty.

“We will be able to see where the hotspots lie by looking at how people, wind, the shape of the land and stormwater moves rubbish into the ocean, and then give advice on how to improve this based on science-based interventions.

Hardesty said that researchers know that almost all litter starts off in someone's hand.

“And from there it finds it ways from land to the ocean, where it breaks up into smaller pieces," she said.

“This means if we can stop the rubbish from entering the ocean, we can make real headway in resolving the problem.”

Representatives from five partner countries met in South Korea this week for the project's first training workshop.

Our Seas of East Asia Network's Dr Sunwook Hong, who is is leading South Korea's involvement in the project, said taking a global approach was essential.

“By coordinating our approach we will be able to achieve some quick wins and know where to set our sights for more long-term goals,” Hong said.

The project follows years of marine debris research led by Hardesty and her team, which has published significant findings.

The project is a collaboration between CSIRO, the Oak Family Foundation and Schmidt Marine Technology Partners.