The flip-or-flop boutique: Marine debris on the shores of St Brandon’s rock, an isolated tropical atoll in the Indian Ocean

Isolated coral atolls are not immune from marine debris accumulation. We identified Southeast Asia, the Indian sub-continent, and the countries on the Arabian Sea as most probable source areas of 50 000 items on the shores of St. Brandon’s Rock (SBR), Indian Ocean. 79% of the debris was plastics. Flip-flops, energy drink bottles, and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) were notable item types. The density of debris (0.74 m1 shore length) is comparable to similar islands but less than mainland sites. Intact CFLs suggests product-facilitated long-range transport of mercury. We suspect that aggregated marine debris, scavenged by the islands from currents and gyres, could re-concentrate pollutants. SBR islets accumulated debris types in different proportions suggesting that many factors act variably on different debris types. Regular cleaning of selected islets will take care of most of the accumulated debris and may improve the ecology and tourism potential. However, arrangements and logistics require more study.

Hindrik Bouwman, Steven W. Evans, Nik Cole, Nee Sun Choong Kwet Yive, Henrik Kylin Marine Environmental Research, Volume 114, Pages 58–64, March 2016

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