The Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait regions are increasingly exposed to new contaminants with little understanding of their potential impact or how to manage these threats.
Currently GBR managers are dealing with known contaminants found in coastal run-off.
However, a wide range of contaminants regularly end up in Queensland’s marine waters, with unknown effects.
A team of scientists aimed to identify if emerging contaminants pose a threat to the health of the marine ecosystem – and recommended ways of managing them. The research
looked at a wide range of emerging contaminants, including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, hydrocarbons, marine debris and microplastics, coal dust, new pesticides, trace and heavy metals, anti-fouling products, and nanomaterials.
Project leader Dr Frederieke Kroon from the Australian Institute of Marine Science said the project was a way to ‘fill the gaps’ in Reef contaminant management.
“A lot of management effort has gone into sediment, nutrients and herbicides,” Dr Kroon said.
“While that effort should continue, we shouldn’t forget that there are other contaminants out there. If one or more of these contaminants are a serious threat, then we need to start looking at its management in a serious way.”
Prioritization of the identified emerging contaminants and their threat to marine regions found marine plastic pollution and anti-fouling pose the highest risk to marine ecosystems in the GBR and Torres Strait.
Dr Kroon said the outcomes of the research would be invaluable for management organisations like the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Port Authorities and the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators.
For example, with marine debris and microplastics, it will be advisable to not only conduct beach clean-ups but start examining the sources of these contaminants entering the environment.”
The full report is available online.
More info on this project can be found here.