4th International Submarine Canyon Symposium (INCISE2018)
5-7 November 2018, Shenzhen, CHINA
This is the detail of Litter in Whittard Canyon, NE Atlantic
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Veerle A.I. Huvenne
T.R.R. Pearman, D.M. Price, K. Robert
Litter in Whittard Canyon, NE Atlantic
Following a number of high-profile documentaries and reports in the media, policy makers and the general public have become increasingly aware of the problem of litter in the marine environment. Early studies in Portuguese and Catalan canyons showed that submarine canyons, similar to their role of sediment transport pathways, can be very effective at trapping marine litter (Mordecai et al., 2011; Tubeau et al., 2015). Canyons were even reported to be the marine environment with the highest density of litter items (Pham et al., 2014). In addition, their common function as prime fishing grounds, albeit with locally rough seabed, often leads to an increased accumulation of lost and discarded fishing gear. However, current inventories of litter in canyons are still very patchy, and our understanding of how litter behaves and how it influences the benthic communities are still limited.
During the CODEMAP2015 expedition on board the RRS James Cook, numerous items of litter and discarded fishing gear were observed during ROV video surveys in Whittard Canyon, NE Atlantic. This presentation will provide an inventory of the litter items found, their spatial distribution, and their classification according to the internationally set categories listed by OSPAR and the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The observations provide an insight into litter ‘behaviour’ in terms of transport and accumulation in the canyon, and illustrates litter impact on benthic ecosystems both through the provision of hard substratum and the risk of ghost fishing. Our findings are compared with global marine litter inventories, and with canyon-specific studies. Whittard Canyon, in the Bay of Biscay, is located >200 nautical miles from land, but is heavily fished on its interfluves and canyon rims. This results in a marine litter composition that is strongly influenced by fishing activities.
This research is based on data collected during the ERC Starting Grant project CODEMAP (Grant No 258482) and the NERC National Capability programme MAREMAP. The CODEMAP2015 expedition was also supported by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.
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