Marine litter is commonly observed everywhere in the ocean. In this study, we analyzed 17 km of video footage, collected by a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) at depths ranging between 20 and 220 m, during 19 transects performed on the rocky banks of the Straits of Sicily. Recently, the Contracting Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recognized this site as an Ecologically or Biologically Significant Area (EBSA). The research aim was to quantify the abundance of marine litter and its impact on benthic fauna. Litter density ranged from 0 items/100 m2 to 14.02 items/100 m2 with a mean (±standard error) of 2.13 (±0.84) items/100 m2. The observed average density was higher (5.2 items/100 m2) at depths >100 m than at shallower depths (<100 m, 0.71 items/100 m2). Lost or abandoned fishing lines contributed to 98.07% of the overall litter density, then representing the dominant source of marine debris. Litter interactions with fauna were frequently observed, with 30% of litter causing “entanglement/coverage” and 15% causing damage to sessile fauna. A total of 16 species showed interaction (entanglement/coverage or damage) with litter items and 12 of these are species of conservation concern according to international directives and agreements (CITES, Berne Convention, Habitat Directive, SPA/BD Protocol, IUCN Red List); we also observed 7 priority habitats of the SPA/BD Protocol. This research will support the implementation of monitoring “Harm” as recommended by the UN Environment/MAP Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean, and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The institution of a SPAMI in the investigated area could represent a good management action for the protection of this hotspot of biodiversity and to achieve a Good Environmental Status (GES) for the marine environment by 2020, under the MSFD.
Pierpaolo Consoli, Franco Andaloro, Chiara Altobelli and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 236, May 2018, Pages 405–415