Distribution and abundance of anthropogenic marine debris along the shelf and slope of the US West Coast

Aimee A Keller, Erica L Fruh, Melanie M Johnson, Victor Simon, Catherine McGourty
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2010, 60 (5): 692-700
As marine debris levels continue to grow worldwide, defining sources, composition, and distribution of debris, as well as potential effects, becomes increasingly important. We investigated composition and abundance of man-made, benthic marine debris at 1347 randomly selected stations along the US West Coast during Groundfish Bottom Trawl Surveys in 2007 and 2008. Anthropogenic debris was observed in 469 tows at depths of 55-1280 m. Plastic and metallic debris occurred in the greatest number of hauls followed by fabric and glass. Mean density was 67.1 items km(-2) throughout the study area but was significantly higher south of 36 degrees 00'N latitude. Mean density significantly increased with depth, ranging from 30 items km(-2) in shallow (55-183 m) water to 128 items km(-2) in the deepest depth stratum (550-1280 m). Debris densities observed along the US West Coast were comparable to those seen elsewhere and provide a valuable backdrop for future comparisons.

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