Daily accumulation rates of marine debris on sub-Antarctic island beaches

Cecilia Eriksson, Harry Burton, Stuart Fitch, Martin Schulz, John van den Hoff
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2013 January 15, 66 (1): 199-208
The worlds' oceans contain a large but unknown amount of plastic debris. We made daily collections of marine debris stranded at two sub-Antarctic islands to establish (a) physical causes of strandings, and (b) a sampling protocol to better estimate the oceans' plastic loading. Accumulation rates at some beaches were dependent on tide and onshore winds. Most of the 6389 items collected were plastic (Macquarie 95%, Heard 94%) and discarded or lost fishing gear comprised 22% of those plastic items. Stalked barnacles (Lepas spp.) were a regular attachment on Macquarie debris but not at Heard Island. The daily accumulation rate of plastic debris on Macquarie Island was an order of magnitude higher than that estimated from monthly surveys during the same 4 months in the previous 5 years. This finding suggests that estimates of the oceans' plastic loading are an order of magnitude too low.

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