Assessing marine debris in deep seafloor habitats off California

Diana L Watters, Mary M Yoklavich, Milton S Love, Donna M Schroeder
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2010, 60 (1): 131-8
Marine debris is a global concern that pollutes the world's oceans, including deep benthic habitats where little is known about the extent of the problem. We provide the first quantitative assessment of debris on the seafloor (20-365 m depth) in submarine canyons and the continental shelf off California, using the Delta submersible. Fishing activities were the most common contributors of debris. Highest densities occurred close to ports off central California and increased significantly over the 15-year study period. Recreational monofilament fishing line dominated this debris. Debris was less dense and more diverse off southern than central California. Plastic was the most abundant material and will likely persist for centuries. Disturbance to habitat and organisms was low, and debris was used as habitat by some fishes and macroinvertebrates. Future trends in human activities on land and at sea will determine the type and magnitude of debris that accumulates in deep water.

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