Taking Fish and Leaving Trash

Fig. 5 from Watters et al. (2010). "Examples of debris items observed from the Delta submersible during deep-water surveys on the seafloor off central and southern California: (a) monofilament fishing line in gorgonian corals off central California at 95 m (photo by M. Yoklavich); (b) gill net snagged on rock off southern California at 80 m (photo by D. Schroeder); (c) beer bottle with shortspine combfish off southern California at 182 m (photo by L. Snook); (d) derelict spot prawn trap continuing to capture crabs off southern California at 247 m (photo by M. Love)."

Monofilament fishing line is not what you expect to see on the deep ocean floor.  What would your response be if I told that enough occurs at depths over 1000 feet you can tally it?  And what if I told you it occurs frequently even in marine sanctuaries?  What if I told you it is not just fishing line but fishing poles, empty bait cans, longlines, nets, traps, fishing gear, fishing weights along with nonfishing items of beverage cans, bottles, construction debris, boxes, 55-gallon drums, artillery, anchors, chains, cables, lines, hub caps, tires, outboard motors, and let’s not forget the tank. That’s right a freaking tank.

On multiple surveys with a submersible, Watters and colleagues found all these items on the deep seafloor habitats off the California coast…often in marine sanctuaries.  In some localities, a piece of trash occurred every eight feet, just a little more than the height of most doors.

You should stop reading here if you don’t want to cry

The discovered trash was dominated by plastics and typically monofilament line from recreational fishing.  These densities of the trash diminished as frequency from ports like Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Moss Landing, increased.  As distance from shore increased, trash “diversity” increased with fishing debris becoming less common.  As most California fisheries target rockfish, rocky surfaces contained disproportionally more trash.  Also disheartening,

Although we did not observe a change in the overall distribution, types, or sources of debris found off central California between the 1990s and 2007, the amount of debris in- creased over time as traditional sites continued to be fished.

Is there good news?  A glimmer of hope in the findings?

Along the Big Sur coastline south of Monterey and absent of towns and ports, trash was virtually absent.

Sorry that was all I could find in the paper.

Watters, D., Yoklavich, M., Love, M., & Schroeder, D. (2010). Assessing marine debris in deep seafloor habitats off California Marine Pollution Bulletin, 60 (1), 131-138 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2009.08.019

Dr. M (1605 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





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5 comments on “Taking Fish and Leaving Trash
  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Taking Fish and Leaving Trash | Deep Sea News -- Topsy.com

  2. Yep. It’s really depressing. When I showed this one to my advisor and lab we all identified with it so strongly, having seen it first hand. It’ll drive ya to drink. And to get pissed, then to redouble your effort to really get the point across.

  3. Pingback: ResearchBlogging.org News » Blog Archive » Editor’s Selections: Cheating Wasps, Evolving Robots, GM-doh!, and Trashing the Ocean

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