Sea Shelter volunteers pull 2867 pieces of rubbish from Nelson Bay breakwall

Close to 3000 pieces of rubbish were collected from the Nelson Bay breakwall during a clean up this month, but the group behind the initiative said this “barely scraped the surface”.

In the span of three hours on Saturday, December 2, six divers and nine members of the Port Stephens-based Sea Shelter organisation collected 2867 pieces of rubbish from the water inside the breakwall and along the wall itself.

Among the rubbish was 1.37km of fishing line, 76 bait bags, 47 cigarette butts, 326 drink containers and 315 paper and plastic wrappers.

Sea Shelter founder Lia Pereira, who also owns and operates Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters with husband Ryan Pereira, said it was “terrible” that so much rubbish, especially plastic, had been collected from the water and the edge of the ocean.

Sea Shelter divers on a Seven Seas Oysters barged docked at the Fisherman's Co-op on December 2. Picture: Florent Vidal Photography

Sea Shelter divers on a Seven Seas Oysters barged docked at the Fisherman's Co-op on December 2. Picture: Florent Vidal Photography

“The breakwall is a hot spot for fishing and for rubbish,” she said.

“Hooks get stuck in rocks and left behind, fishing line and plastic is left behind.

“We noticed the rubbish build up at the breakwall and decided to do something about it.”

Sea Shelter is an ocean conservation organisation with a focus on research, marine rehabilitation, rescue and regeneration.

It comprises of community members who are passionate about the ocean.

A Sea Shelters volunteer collecting rubbish from along the Nelson Bay breakwall. Picture: Florent Vidal Photography

A Sea Shelters volunteer collecting rubbish from along the Nelson Bay breakwall. Picture: Florent Vidal Photography

Noticing a need for a clean-up along the breakwall, some Sea Shelter members donned dive gear and others gloves and litter bags to collect rubbish.

Bruce and Rob Redmayne from Sevens Seas Oysters donated a 6m barge for the clean up operation, which was docked at the Fisherman’s Co-op on the Saturday afternoon.

Let’s Go Adventures and d’Albora Marinas supported Sea Shelters’ clean up.

Due to the weather, divers were only able to collect rubbish from inside the breakwall and not outside, as was originally planned.

During the course of the clean up, divers came across a Fanbelly Leatherjacket fish which had swallowed a hook and was trailing at least 4m of fishing line.

Volunteers were unable to remove the hook, however they did cut the line off. 

A Sea Shelters volunteers collating data from the clean up. Picture: Florent Vidal Photography

A Sea Shelters volunteers collating data from the clean up. Picture: Florent Vidal Photography

Mrs Pereira said feedback from fishermen Sea Shelter members spoke to during the clean up indicated that it was a lack of bins along the breakwall which has lead to so much rubbish being left behind.

“The bins have been removed after being set on fire and melting all over the breakwall,” she said.

“Crown Lands have plans in place to implement some fire proof bins. In the meantime, OCCI [Ocean and Coastal Care Initiatives] and their helpful volunteers have provided and maintained three Tangler Bins on the break wall designed for fishing line and small fishing waste.

“This is definitely an area that needs some attention because the litter collected on the day barely scraped the surface.”

Thhe amount of rubbish and other data collected during the clean up has been entered into the Tangaroa Blue Australian Marine Debris Initiative.