Marine litter on the seafloor of the Faial-Pico Passage, Azores Archipelago

Plastic pollution in the marine environment attracts much attention from both researchers and the general public. Plastic items and other debris are commonly observed everywhere in the ocean, from the surface down to the deep ocean floor. In this study, we analysed 45.2 km of video footage, collected during 56 transects surveying the seafloor of the Faial-Pico Passage in order to quantify the abundance of marine litter and its interactions with benthic fauna. The footage was collected by a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and a manned submersible at depths ranging between 40 and 525 m. The mean litter density in the passage was 0.26 ± 0.03 items·100 m− 1 (± SE) and was significantly higher between 151 and 250 m compared to other depth strata. Overall, derelict fishing gear, mostly made of plastic, were the most common objects found on the seafloor, representing 64% of all items. Although we observed few evidence of direct deleterious effects by the litter, interactions with fauna were observed in more than half of the items. This study makes an important contribution in quantifying the abundance of marine litter on the seafloor of the Azores. The location of the Faial-Pico Passage, close to shore, makes it an appropriate site for long-term monitoring of litter on the seafloor and evaluate the efficiency of upcoming public policies aimed at reducing litter input into the oceans.

Yasmina Rodríguez, Christopher K. Pham, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 116, Issues 1–2, 15 March 2017, Pages 448–453

The article

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