Long-term Monitoring of Ocean Debris & Wildlife Impacts in the Northern Territory

Australia's remote, sparsely populated, northern shores record some of the highest levels of marine debris in the world - with major impacts on the Northern Territory's ocean ecosystems, including its globally-significant populations of marine megafauna, particularly sea turtles. In this seminar, we outline the results of long-term systematic monitoring of debris (and wildlife impacts) across the Territory (since 2000), undertaken in collaboration with Indigenous sea ranger groups, WWF-Australia and volunteer.

Across monitoring sites, the north-western Gulf of Carpentaria records the greatest accumulation of ocean debris (and wildlife entanglements) - peaking under southeast monsoon conditions. Across the region, fishing-related marine debris is the major component of marine debris, with nets being the most common item - with major impacts on marine wildlife (particularly sea turtles). Foreign fishing (primarily in the Arafura Sea) is the major source of these nets, with 62% of identified nets of Taiwanese or Indonesian origin, compared to 11% attributed to Australian fishing vessels or fisheries. Annual debris loads reached a minimum in 2008, but appear to have dramatically increased in recent years, particularly in 2013 and 2017. Marine debris remains a major threat to the Territory's marine biodiversity (particularly marine megafauna), and needs ongoing and regional, coordinated, monitoring, mitigation and management efforts.

Seminar flyer (PDF, 425KB)

About the speaker

Karen Edyvane (PhD, UAdel) is a Marine Scientist with extensive experience (>30 years) in coastal science and management. Since her move to Darwin in 2006, her research interests have primarily focused on northern Australia and the Arafura and Timor Seas region - with a focus on coastal impacts, sustainability, ecosystem management and livelihood development. Her research on marine debris includes leading some of the longest-running ocean debris monitoring programs in Australia (South Australia, Northern Territory). She is currently a Visiting Professor at the National University of Timor-Leste, a University Professorial Fellow with Charles Darwin University and an Honorary Research Fellow with the Australian National University.