National plan to track marine pollution

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Where it all began: Clean Ocean Foundation head John Gemmill, right, returned to Gunnamatta with Flinders MP Greg Hunt to release details of a national sewage outfall database. Picture: Yanni

A NEW database will provide the public with details about sewage being poured into the ocean, estuaries and rivers.

The database developed by the Clean Ocean Foundation, which successfully campaigned to clean up sewage being pumped into the ocean at Gunnamatta, has been compiled with a $400,000 federal government grant announced by Flinders MP Greg Hunt in October 2015.

Now based at Wonthaggi, the foundation’s head John Gemmill joined Mr Hunt at Gunnamatta on Friday to announce the establishment of the national outfall database, or NOD.

Citizen scientists were recruited to monitor and take water samples from many of Australia’s 274 sewage outfalls.

It is hoped that the data to be shared by water authorities, the states and the Northern Territory will be used to benefit the marine environment in when plans are drawn up for developing infrastructure.

“The NOD provides the crucial first step to cross-institutional data sharing and will be a vital resource for governments and the community alike,” a news release from Mr Hunt’s office states. “This important research will continue to monitor the impact of sewage on Australia’s marine biodiversity and ecosystems.”

The work by the Clean Ocean Foundation is part of research being undertaken by the Marine Biodiversity Hub under the National Environmental Science Program (NESP).

The research in Australia’s temperate marine waters is aimed at to helping manage and protect coastal and marine environments.

When announcing the grant to the foundation in October 2015 Mr Hunt said work on the outfall database would see “fishers and surfers … become citizen scientists”.

Mr Gemmill said since forcing changes at Gunnamatta the foundation had been “steadfastly focussing on addressing outfalls from a national approach, because our oceans know no borders”.

First published in the Frankston Times – 12 June 2017

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