Marine litter in submarine canyons of the Bay of Biscay

Marine litter is a matter of increasing concern worldwide, from shallow seas to the open ocean and from beaches to the deep-seafloor. Indeed, the deep sea may be the ultimate repository of a large proportion of litter in the ocean.

We used footage acquired with a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and a towed camera to investigate the distribution and composition of litter in the submarine canyons of the Bay of Biscay. This bay contains many submarine canyons housing Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) such as scleractinian coral habitats. VMEs are considered to be important for fish and they increase the local biodiversity. The objectives of the study were to investigate and discuss: i) litter density, ii) the principal sources of litter, iii) the influence of environmental factors on the distribution of litter, and iv) the impact of litter on benthic communities.

Litter was found in all 15 canyons and at three sites on the edge of the continental shelf/canyon, in 25 of 29 dives. The Belle-île and Arcachon Canyons contained the largest amounts of litter, up to 12.6 and 9.5 items 100 images−1 respectively. Plastic items were the most abundant (42%), followed by fishing-related items (16%). (…)

Inge M.J. van den Beld, Brigitte Guillaumont, Lénaïck Menot, and al., Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, Available online 26 April 2016, In Press, Accepted Manuscript

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