Using citizen science data to assess the difference in marine debris loads on reefs in Queensland, Australia
The prevalence of marine debris in global oceans is negatively impacting the marine environment. In Australia, marine debris has been an increasing concern for sensitive marine environments, such as coral reefs. Citizen science can contribute data to explore patterns of subtidal marine debris loads. This study uses data from Reef Check Australia to describe patterns of debris abundance on reef tourism sites in two Queensland regions, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and Southeast Queensland (SEQ). Debris was categorized into three groups, fishing line, fishing net, and general rubbish. Overall, debris abundance across reefs was relatively low (average 0.5–3.3 items per survey (400 m2)), but not absent on remote reefs surveyed in the GBR region. Highest debris loads were recorded in SEQ near cities and high use areas. These results indicate the presence of marine debris on remote and urban reefs, and the applicability of using citizen science to monitor debris abundance.