Dr Kathy Townsend, an expert on marine debris in sea turtles and other marine species, conducting an autopsy on the dead sea turtle.
Dr Kathy Townsend, an expert on marine debris in sea turtles and other marine species, conducting an autopsy on the dead sea turtle. Contributed

Impact of plastic bag ban on marine life to be studied.

WITH the ban of plastic bags in Queensland imminent, researchers have set out to monitor the amount of marine debris found inside dead sea life in waters off the Fraser Coast.

University of the Sunshine Coast lecturers in Animal Ecology Dr Kathy Townsend and Dr Dominique Potvin will lead the study to discover the impact entanglement and ingestion of debris has on the region's endangered marine creatures.

The study is a first for the Great Sandy Marine Park which serves as a nesting and feeding ground for animals from north of Bundaberg to Double Island Point.

Dr Townsend said the study would allow researchers to measure the effectiveness of the state-wide ban of plastic bags, due to come into effect on July 1.

 

A young turtle and the marine plastics it has ingested.
A young turtle and the marine plastics it has ingested. Contributed

"Plastic bags are notoriously dangerous for turtles and sea birds who mistake them for food and choke or get tangled among them until they cannot swim or fly," she said.

"We aim to determine which of the major river systems are making the biggest debris inputs into the system.

"Using water circulation patterns, we will use computer modelling to estimate in-water marine debris concentrations and overlay the data with sea turtle and sea bird distribution data within the region."

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As of next month, autopsies will be conducted on dead stranded sea turtles along Fraser Coast beaches.

Fraser Coast Regional Council and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service will partner with USC in the project by collecting dead birds and turtles from the region's beaches and waterways to be autopsied by Dr Townsend and Dr Potvin.



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