Deakin graduate giving Great Barrier Reef marine life a fighting chance

Deakin news
30 January 2018

A former Warrnambool student is giving Great Barrier Reef marine life a fighting chance as part of her new campaign to outlaw straws on commercial boats.

Nicole Nash graduated from Deakin’s Warrnambool marine biology course in 2013 and has since started her own campaign, The Last Straw on the Great Barrier Reef.

‘Banning straws will start the conversation with commercial vessel operators and the general public about the impacts that plastic has in the marine environment,’ she said.

‘Straws are easy to eliminate. Unless people have a medical condition, most people don’t really need a straw. There are many alternatives to plastic straws like stainless steel and bamboo. But our motto is, sip, don’t suck. No straw is still the best option.’

Formerly from Geelong, Ms Nash came to Warrnambool for the marine biology course and subsequently completed her master’s in Natural Resource Management at James Cook University in Cairns, where she researched marine debris around Australia. She now works as a ranger with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service in Cairns.

Her research inspired her to tackle human consumption of single-use plastics. More than 75 per cent of marine debris found in and around the Great Barrier Reef is plastic. ‘Plastic will survive for more than 100 years, and the problem is it’s often mistaken for food by marine life and ingested; it also poses a threat of entanglement and critical habitat destruction,’ Ms Nash said.

‘Why use a straw for one minute when it will survive longer than your lifetime.’

The initiative is asking boats to pledge to remain straw free forever and will eventually expand to tackle island resorts, with the aim to inspire vessels to consider other single-use items they use like plastic cups and cutlery.

The response has been positive with many boats agreeing to the ban and displaying signs to inform customers.

Ms Nash has been working with supporting partners the Tangaroa Blue Foundation, Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways and Cairns Regional Council in producing a video and signs for the initiative.

She has fond memories of her time at Deakin Warrnambool. ‘The location is perfect and the academic staff always have an open door policy to assist,’ she said.

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