Divers plumb the Tweed to clean up rubbish
WE may not have a dumpster or treasure lining the depths of the Tweed River, but we do have a lot of fishing line.
We know this thanks to more than 300 underwater volunteers who dedicated their time to clean the estuaries and seafloor in a number of rivers across the state.
The clean-up occurred from the Tweed River to Eden, and involved 11 underwater research groups under the banner of Underwater Volunteers NSW, with guidance from Southern Cross University marine researchers.
Southern Cross University's National Marine Science Centre associate Professor Stephen Smith said divers were in the Tweed River last month.
It has a major impact on marine organisms and we want to educate people about how they can be more evironmentally conscious.
"In June volunteers evaluated and cleared two sites at Cook Island," Prof Smith said.
"Volunteers find a lot of fishing line in that area which is common in highly fished places."
The professor said many interesting things had been found including a dumpster in the Nambucca River and many old bottles that were more than 60 years old.
"Our older volunteers have taken to rummaging through the bottles to try and find one with their birth year on it," he said.
But these are only the finds he knew about.
"If someone found a really beautiful piece of jewellery it would be logged in our system as metal," he said.
So far, the volunteer divers haven't come across anything toxic.
Prof Smith said old rusty and sharp metal poles were the main danger to them.
The groups are very focused on re-using the items they find in the depths and recycling everything else.
"We want to get on top of the issue of debris in our water," Prof Smith said.
"It has a major impact on marine organisms and we want to educate people about how they can be more environmentally conscious."
He said the role of citizen scientists in the future management of our resources should not be underestimated."
Marine science is largely under-staffed and under-resourced and well-trained volunteers are increasingly helping to fill some key gaps in our knowledge about coastal habitats," he said.
The project is attracting considerable attention and the project team was recently awarded the Southern Cross University's Vice Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Community Engagement.
The project has been funded by the Australian Government's Caring For Our Country and championed by the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority.