'Nurdles': Tiny pieces of plastic causing huge problems for the ocean

Thursday, 29 Apr, 2021

Plastic straws, single-use plastic water bottles, plastic food wrapping and fishing debris are types of marine plastic pollution that we're familiar with, but there's another insidious type that often goes unnoticed: 'Nurdles'.

Nurdles (a.k.a “Mermaid Tears”) are tiny pieces of plastic about the size of a lentil. These pellets are the building blocks of the plastics industry and billions of them are used each year to make all the plastic products.

Sadly, nurdles pose a huge threat to marine life. According to Claire Gwinwett, a Professor in Environmental Science at the University of Staffordshire, “Their small size, round shape and array of colours make them attractive food – easily mistaken for fish eggs and small prey.” 

During March, our Marine Debris Campaign hosted the Sea Shepherd Aussie Nurdle Hunt, a national initiative designed to engage and educate the community on the issue of nurdle pollution.

At events around the country, a staggering 4,766 nurdles were removed. The most polluted beaches were Port Melbourne, Semaphore Beach in Adelaide and in Perth at Point Walter on the Swan River and Bathers Beach.


"Nurdles often blend in with other coastal vegetation, so at first you don’t notice them. Once you’ve spotted your first nurdle, you can’t un-see them ever again.”

- Marina Hansen, Marine Debris Campaigner

Take a look at our Aussie Nurdle Hunt events around the country: 

Volunteers on the hunt for nurdles at Point Walter, WA.
A nurdle found at Point Walter, WA.
Volunteers at Port Melbourne, VIC.
A volunteer looking for nurdles at Semaphore beach, SA.
Nurdles found at Semaphore beach, SA.

Nurdles and  other plastic debris are entering the ocean and killing marine life at an alarming rate. But YOU can make a difference by joining our passionate volunteers as we work together with local communities to clean beaches and waterways around the country and raise awareness around the issue of marine plastic pollution. They are free to join, family-friendly and inclusive. 

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