Plastics have become the most ubiquitous form of marine debris globally. Micro and other forms of plastics, pose a grave risk to the health of the world’s oceans, including in the relatively clean waters of Torres Strait. Certain species, such as turtles, fish, whales, and birds, face growing risks related to entanglement, habitat degradation and ingestion of plastics.
The region’s limited oil spill response capacity, remoteness, complex currents, and extensive reef networks mean that shipping poses a major and growing threat to the region’s water quality, environmental values, and liveability.
Ocean acidification is likely to become a bigger risk to water quality over coming decades under a business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions scenario, with adverse impacts on corals and other marine ecosystems within the region. It impairs the ability of marine animals to build and maintain their protective shells and skeletons, which could have major consequences for marine biodiversity and supply of coralline sand for beaches across the region. The impacts of global warming are a more immediate threat with marine heatwaves already causing substantial loss of corals. The warming of the region’s waters also reduces the amount of oxygen the water can carry, posing another risk to the health of marine species.