Christopher K. Pham 1 , 2 , * , Eva Ramirez-Llodra 3 , 4 , Claudia H. S. Alt 5 , Teresa Amaro 6 , Melanie Bergmann 7 , Miquel Canals 8 , Joan B. Company 3 , Jaime Davies 9 , Gerard Duineveld 10 , François Galgani 11 , Kerry L. Howell 9 , Veerle A. I. Huvenne 12 , Eduardo Isidro 1 , 2 , Daniel O. B. Jones 12 , Galderic Lastras 8 , Telmo Morato 1 , 2 , José Nuno Gomes-Pereira 1 , 2 , Autun Purser 13 , Heather Stewart 14 , Inês Tojeira 15 , Xavier Tubau 8 , David Van Rooij 16 , Paul A. Tyler 5
30 April 2014
Anthropogenic litter is present in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote points in the oceans. On the seafloor, marine litter, particularly plastic, can accumulate in high densities with deleterious consequences for its inhabitants. Yet, because of the high cost involved with sampling the seafloor, no large-scale assessment of distribution patterns was available to date. Here, we present data on litter distribution and density collected during 588 video and trawl surveys across 32 sites in European waters. We found litter to be present in the deepest areas and at locations as remote from land as the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The highest litter density occurs in submarine canyons, whilst the lowest density can be found on continental shelves and on ocean ridges. Plastic was the most prevalent litter item found on the seafloor. Litter from fishing activities (derelict fishing lines and nets) was particularly common on seamounts, banks, mounds and ocean ridges. Our results highlight the extent of the problem and the need for action to prevent increasing accumulation of litter in marine environments.