24 May 2013
people on a beach with the results of their clean up

The results of a two and a half hour collection of marine debris. Photo: Paul Back

Earlier this year, AFMA sought suggestions on the possible source of pieces of green twine – around 400 mm in length – that have been washing up on Macquarie Island over a period of years. It appears as though part of the puzzle may have been solved!

Recently two AFMA Fisheries Officers boarded a South Korean longliner that was fishing for Toothfish in the Southern Ocean. During the inspection they noticed that the vessel attached the hooks to the mainline using short lengths of green poly rope, which is different from the usual Spanish long line system or auto line systems. On-board there were thousands of short lengths of pre-cut twine ready for use as well as those that were attached to the mainline.  It is suspected that other fleets may be using similar material.

Macquarie Island and a number of other sub-Antarctic Islands are in the path of the circumpolar current which concentrates marine debris. For example, there have been reports of similar material washing up in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands over many years.

There were reports of an illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) long line fishing vessel that sank at Kerguelen Island in the Southern Ocean east of Macquarie Island. So it is possible that the green string could be washing ashore from this vessel, or any other vessel passing through the commonly fished Toothfish grounds to the west of Heard and McDonald Islands.

AFMA received many responses and suggestions and we thank all of those who took the time to respond.

For more information please contact Peter Neave, Manager Antarctic Fisheries on 02 6225 5302 or email peter.neave@afma.gov.au.