Outside the Pool - Talk about Plastic Ocean with Marine Scientist Dr Kathy Townsend (by Christine)

At Zen Freediving we think outside the pool. While teaching and training freediving build the core elements of our organization, we also aim to learn more about the environment we love to spend so much time in, creating a community that shares their passion and gives back to the ocean.

In 2019, we started to regularly conduct underwater and beach clean-ups and have so far collected 470.5kg of trash just at our Southern Islands.

But where does this trash come from? What impact does it have on the ocean and marine life? What can we do to play our part to reduce our waste, especially plastics?

Dr Townsend and a volunteer perform a necropsy on a juvenile hawksbill sea turtle

Last Saturday morning, Michelle organized a virtual talk with Dr. Kathy Townsend, the Australia-based lead academic for internationally renowned Programs “Project Manta” and “Turtles in trouble”. She introduced us to the results of a 10-year investigation to uncover the impacts of marine debris in our ‘Plastic Ocean’.

Over 20 Zenners got insights into how our conveniently used plastic ends up not only on our local shores but in all our oceans. How it travels, and in which form it is consumed by all kinds of marine life. We learned how everyday, single-use plastic impacts the life and behavior of animals in water and on land all around the world from Nepal to the Galapagos, from small animals like krill to larger ones like seabirds, turtles, and even cattle. 

This young green sea turtle died by eating just 13 pieces of single use items - shopping bags, balloons and candy wrappers

While it is easy to point fingers, Kathy presented the disturbing results, which contributed to legislative change to debris laws across Australia, in a very unbiased way, leading us to be more aware of our own consumer choices. Her outlook is also optimistic, as more people are becoming aware of the situation and choosing to reduce their use of plastic.

Gaining more knowledge is the basis for a more sustainable future. With events  such as this, Zen Freediving hopes to raise awareness on topics that are important not exclusively to freedivers but everyone, whether they share the love for the ocean or not (yet).

Thank you Kathy for sharing your investigations with us, Michelle for bringing us together, and participants for joining!


Here is what some of our Zenners thought of the talk:

GL wrote: Thank you for organising the talk @Michelle Ooi  Love the topic and speaker!

ECC wrote: Thank you for the amazing Talk!! Love it ! Really interested to hear more talk !

TM wrote: Yes thanks Michelle for organizing! T’was great.

SB wrote: Very nice talk, thanks for organising and to Kathy!

CSC wrote: It was great, the bit that I joined. Thanks for organising, Michelle!

MS wrote: Thanks Michelle, it was really interesting.

TN wrote: Thank you for organizing! It was very interesting to learn about how plastic pollution can be related to activities wayyy further inland than expected

LKB wrote: Thanks Michelle. It's useful info. Good to renew our knowledge base on plastics. Look forward to the beach clean up in the near future .Thanks.


At Zen Freediving, talks about various topics related to life inside or with the ocean are conducted frequently, and everyone is welcome to join. Keep an lookout on our website or Facebook page for upcoming events!


Photos from https://www.csiro.au