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Keeping New Zealand’s shores free from rubbish is a great way to help ensure the safety of marine mammals.

The ocean covers most of the planet and is home to 97 percent of life on Earth. Apart from being there to swim in, it also drives and moderates our climate and weather. It is the ultimate source of the water we drink and much of the air we breathe. It’s also home to millions of animals, including the world’s largest and our favourite – the mighty whale.

But unfortunately our ocean is sick, and us humans are to blame. For whatever reason, we’ve allowed rubbish and other pollutants to get into the ocean, directly affecting its health, the health of the animals that live in it, and our own. Marine mammals can often mistake floating plastic debris for food or accidentally swallow it. Each year more than 7 billion tonnes of rubbish makes its way into the sea. On its journey it kills, maimes and injures wildlife and pollutes the ecosystems that they depend on for food, shelter, and to raise their young.

Marine debris comes in many shapes and forms, from cigarette butts to plastic bags, fishing gear and aluminium cans. There’s even nastier stuff such as used nappies, condoms or syringes. Most marine debris does not biodegrade, which means it will stay in the environment for hundreds of years, if not forever.

So, what can we do?

You can carry out your own beach cleanup or take part in an organised community event.

If you’d like to organise your own event, great! Get a group together and contact your local council. There are some great resources available from the Love Your Coast website to get you started.