A new report (.pdf) from the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute details that garbage on the sea floor within Icelandic territorial waters is accumulating.
21 areas of the sea floor within Icelandic waters were carefully documented, in photos and videos, and litter was found in 15 of these areas, with a density of over 870 litter items per square kilometre.
The most heavily polluted area was Reykjaneshryggur, the fault line that extends southwest from Iceland’s Suðurnes peninsula, while the least polluted areas were found in the north.
Of particular concern was the fact that most of this litter was comprised of fishing gear, such as longlines and trawl nets.
“Longlines and trawl nets were commonly tangled with corals and rocks. Both litter items can destroy vulnerable ecosystems like coral reefs that may take long to recover since they grow very slowly,” the report states in part. ” … Moreover, a lot of modern fishing gear is made from very strong plastic that takes an extremely long time to degrade. Consequently, the amount of litter on the seafloor will only increase.”
The report includes numerous photos of some of the litter that was found on the sea floor. In addition to the fishing gear, some of this litter also included shipping pallets, soft drinks cans, and other human detritus. Plastic remained the most common form of litter found.
“In conclusion, it is important to try to limit the amount of litter that winds up in the ocean and protect vulnerable ecosystems so that anthropogenic destruction will not be more than we already see,” the abstract closes. “Still, little is known about the influence of marine litter on the marine ecosystem. Therefore, it is important to continue to research where marine litter gathers and how it affects marine ecosystems as well as exploring how different fishing gear affects the abundance of seafloor litter.”
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