Rye project takes aim at plastic pollution By Kate Sears

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Environmentalist and anti-litter campaigner Josie Jones is ever so passionate about the state of our planet, regularly touching base with Mornington Peninsula Magazine to update her litter observations and her journey to clean up our environment through awareness. After receiving the Australia Day Citizen of the Year Award this year for the Mornington Peninsula area, she’s continued her work auditing the Rye Pier through The Rye Pier Biodiversity Project, a project initiated by Mechelle Cheers of the Rye Community Group Alliance and supported by marine biologist Fam Charko of the Eco Centre in St Kilda

In her advocacy for cleaning up our beaches and marine environment, she’s been actively using the iNaturalist website for the past year to monitor the area and ultimately create data. There was no audit to be found when the Mornington Peninsula Shire announced its plans to extend the boating facilities next to the pier, completing construction work and increasing boat and jetski traffic. It was suggested that this may have a negative effect on the marine life beneath the pier, and with its beauty valued by residents and divers, they took action.

Via the iNaturalist website, she’s joined people all over the world as they register marine species to their relative areas. The Rye Pier Biodiversity Audit has 13 passionate volunteer divers who have compiled an impressive list of more than 400 observations, which includes identifying 121 species that live under the pier. It’s no surprise that Josie is at the top of the leader board with 160 observations and 45 species identified. This project now serves as a source of evidence of the amazing sea life under the pier, which includes species that are listed as ‘vulnerable’, such as the big-belly seahorse, and ‘near-threatened’, such as the weedy seadragon, both protected species.

In relation to this impressive task, she’s also undertaken a litter audit of Rye for the past five years. As the tide runs high, more than 8000 cigarette butts have been pulled out of the sand in two weeks after peak season. “Despite the tractor run, we are actually finding that the catcher on the back cuts up and buries a lot of waste, creating microplastics. I have compared my data with those around the world with swept beaches and rake devices and it is the same feedback. I have asked the shire to assist in addressing littering on beaches and offer reusable beach bins that educate visitors on the marine life and rules around smoking and littering.”

Josie believes in education and creating a conversation around the issue. “Despite the clean team, large amounts of high-ticket litter items are being found. You cannot beat hands but we need to do more to educate on what risks we are placing on our environment through awareness, education and enforcement. We are working hard to try and engage the shire also to put up signage on the freeway entry to communicate our environmental ethos through slogans such as ‘Butt It, Bin It’, ‘Enforcing Littering’, ‘Say No to Single Use’, ‘Take Your Rubbish Home’ and ‘Recycle Right’.

Josie is currently working with Surf Life Saving Victoria to join The Only Butt campaign with Mayor David Gill and chief executive John Baker to raise litter awareness. “David and John are a wonderful support and understand that, working together, we can solve our issue of plastic to the oceans.”

To view or contribute to the Rye Pier audit, visit www.inaturalist.org/projects/rye-pier-biodiversity-audit, and join The Only Butt campaign at www.instagram.com/theonlybutt/

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