Report | August 15, 2015

Marine litter in the upper São Vicente submarine canyon (SW Portugal): Abundance, distribution, composition and fauna interactions


Marine litter has become a worldwide environmental problem, tainting all ocean habitats. The abundance, distribution and composition of litter and its interactions with fauna were evaluated in the upper S. Vicente canyon using video images from 3 remote operated vehicle exploratory dives. Litter was present in all dives and the abundance was as high as 3.31 items 100 m−1. Mean abundance of litter over rock bottom was higher than on soft substrate. Mean litter abundance was slightly higher than reported for other canyons on the Portuguese margin, but lower in comparison to more urbanized coastal areas of the world. Lost fishing gear was the prevalent type of litter, indicating that the majority of litter originates from maritime sources, mainly fishing activity. Physical contact with sessile fauna and entanglement of specimens were the major impacts of lost fishing gear. Based on the importance of this region for the local fishermen, litter abundance is expected to increase.