Journal: Marine pollution bulletin
Our understanding of global seagrass ecosystems comes largely from regions characterized by human impacts with limited data from habitats defined as notionally pristine. Seagrass assessments also largely focus on shallow-water coastal habitats with comparatively few studies on offshore deep-water seagrasses. We satellite tracked green turtles (Chelonia mydas), which are known to forage on seagrasses, to a remote, pristine deep-water environment in the Western Indian Ocean, the Great Chagos Bank, which lies in the heart of one of the world’s largest marine protected areas (MPAs). Subsequently we used in-situ SCUBA and baited video surveys to survey the day-time sites occupied by turtles and discovered extensive monospecific seagrass meadows of Thalassodendron ciliatum. At three sites that extended over 128 km, mean seagrass cover was 74% (mean range 67-88% across the 3 sites at depths to 29 m. The mean species richness of fish in seagrass meadows was 11 species per site (mean range 8-14 across the 3 sites). High fish abundance (e.g. Siganus sutor: mean MaxN.site-1 = 38.0, SD = 53.7, n = 5) and large predatory shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) (mean MaxN.site-1 = 1.5, SD = 0.4, n = 5) were recorded at all sites. Such observations of seagrass meadows with large top predators, are limited in the literature. Given that the Great Chagos Bank extends over approximately 12,500 km2and many other large deep submerged banks exist across the world’s oceans, our results suggest that deep-water seagrass may be far more abundant than previously suspected.
Biofouled debris from the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami has landed in the Northeast Pacific and along the Hawaiian Islands since 2012. As of 2017, >630 biofouled debris items with >320 living species of algae, invertebrates, and fish have been examined. The invasive mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis was present on >50% of those items. Size, reproduction, and growth of this filter-feeding species were examined to better understand long-distance rafting of a coastal species. The majority of mussels (79%) had developing or mature gametes, and growth rates averaged 0.075±0.018 SE mm/day. Structural and elemental (barium/calcium) analysis of mussel shells generated estimates of growth in coastal waters (mean=1.3 to 25mm total length), which provides an indication of residence times in waters along North America and the Hawaiian Islands prior to landing. Detailed studies of individual species contribute to our understanding of debris as a transport vector and aid efforts to evaluate potential risks associated with marine debris.
Microplastics are present in marine habitats worldwide and laboratory studies show this material can be ingested, yet data on abundance in natural populations is limited. This study documents microplastics in 10 species of fish from the English Channel. 504 Fish were examined and plastics found in the gastrointestinal tracts of 36.5%. All five pelagic species and all five demersal species had ingested plastic. Of the 184 fish that had ingested plastic the average number of pieces per fish was 1.90±0.10. A total of 351 pieces of plastic were identified using FT-IR Spectroscopy; polyamide (35.6%) and the semi-synthetic cellulosic material, rayon (57.8%) were most common. There was no significant difference between the abundance of plastic ingested by pelagic and demersal fish. Hence, microplastic ingestion appears to be common, in relatively small quantities, across a range of fish species irrespective of feeding habitat. Further work is needed to establish the potential consequences.
Marine debris, particularly plastic and abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear, is ubiquitous in marine environments. This study provides the first quantitative and qualitative assessment of benthic debris using seafloor video collected from a drop camera system in the Bay of Fundy, Eastern Canada. An estimated 137 debris items km-2 of seafloor were counted, comprising of plastic (51%), fishing gear (including plastic categories; 28%) and other (cable, metal, tires; 21%). Debris was widespread, but mainly located nearshore (within 9 km) and on the periphery of areas with high fishing intensity. This baseline benthic marine debris characterization and estimate of abundance provides valuable information for government (municipal, provincial and federal) and for other stakeholders to implement management strategies to reduce plastic and other categories of benthic marine pollution at source. Strategies may include limiting plastic use and reducing illegal dumping through improved education among fishers.
Plastic marine pollution in the open ocean of the southern hemisphere is largely undocumented. Here, we report the result of a (4489km) 2424 nautical mile transect through the South Pacific subtropical gyre, carried out in March-April 2011. Neuston samples were collected at 48 sites, averaging 50 nautical miles apart, using a manta trawl lined with a 333μm mesh. The transect bisected a predicted accumulation zone associated with the convergence of surface currents, driven by local winds. The results show an increase in surface abundance of plastic pollution as we neared the center and decrease as we moved away, verifying the presence of a garbage patch. The average abundance and mass was 26,898particles km(-2) and 70.96gkm(-2), respectively. 88.8% of the plastic pollution was found in the middle third of the samples with the highest value of 396,342particles km(-2) occurring near the center of the predicted accumulation zone.
Recent work suggesting that fisheries depletions have turned the corner is misplaced because analysis was based largely on fisheries from better-managed developed-world fisheries. Some indicators of status show improvements in the minority of fisheries subjected to formal assessment. Other indicators, such as trophic level and catch time series, have been controversial. Nevertheless, several deeper analyses of the status of the majority of world fisheries confirm the previous dismal picture: serious depletions are the norm world-wide, management quality is poor, catch per effort is still declining. The performance of stock assessment itself may stand challenged by random environmental shifts and by the need to accommodate ecosystem-level effects. The global picture for further fisheries species extinctions, the degradation of ecosystem food webs and seafood security is indeed alarming. Moreover, marine ecosystems and their embedded fisheries are challenged in parallel by climate change, acidification, metabolic disruptors and other pollutants. Attempts to remedy the situation need to be urgent, focused, innovative and global.
Marine plastic pollution has been a growing concern for decades. Single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads) are a significant source of this pollution. Although research outlining environmental, social, and economic impacts of marine plastic pollution is growing, few studies have examined policy and legislative tools to reduce plastic pollution, particularly single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads). This paper reviews current international market-based strategies and policies to reduce plastic bags and microbeads. While policies to reduce microbeads began in 2014, interventions for plastic bags began much earlier in 1991. However, few studies have documented or measured the effectiveness of these reduction strategies. Recommendations to further reduce single-use plastic marine pollution include: (i) research to evaluate effectiveness of bans and levies to ensure policies are having positive impacts on marine environments; and (ii) education and outreach to reduce consumption of plastic bags and microbeads at source.
Plastic ingestion by marine biota has been reported for a variety of different taxa. In this study, we investigated 290 gastrointestinal tracts of demersal (cod, dab and flounder) and pelagic fish species (herring and mackerel) from the North and Baltic Sea for the occurrence of plastic ingestion. In 5.5% of all investigated fishes, plastic particles were detected, with 74% of all particles being in the microplastic (<5mm) size range. The polymer types of all found particles were analysed by means of Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy. Almost 40% of the particles consisted of polyethylene (PE). In 3.4% of the demersal and 10.7% of the pelagic individuals, plastic ingestion was recorded, showing a significantly higher ingestion frequency in the pelagic feeders. The condition factor K was calculated to test differences in the fitness status between individuals with and without ingested plastic, but no direct effect was detected.
The worlds' oceans contain a large but unknown amount of plastic debris. We made daily collections of marine debris stranded at two sub-Antarctic islands to establish (a) physical causes of strandings, and (b) a sampling protocol to better estimate the oceans' plastic loading. Accumulation rates at some beaches were dependent on tide and onshore winds. Most of the 6389 items collected were plastic (Macquarie 95%, Heard 94%) and discarded or lost fishing gear comprised 22% of those plastic items. Stalked barnacles (Lepas spp.) were a regular attachment on Macquarie debris but not at Heard Island. The daily accumulation rate of plastic debris on Macquarie Island was an order of magnitude higher than that estimated from monthly surveys during the same 4months in the previous 5years. This finding suggests that estimates of the oceans' plastic loading are an order of magnitude too low.
We recently conducted a laboratory study to measure the dispersion effectiveness of eight dispersants currently listed on the National Contingency Plan Product Schedule. Results are useful in determining how many commercial dispersant products would have been effective for use on South Louisiana crude oil in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The test used was a modification of the Baffled Flask Test (BFT), which is being proposed to replace the current Swirling Flask Test (SFT). The modifications of the BFT in this study included use of one oil rather than two, increasing replication from 4 runs to 6, and testing at two temperatures, 5°C and 25°C. Results indicated that temperature was not as critical a variable as the literature suggested, likely because of the low viscosity and light weight of the SLC. Of the eight dispersants tested, only three gave satisfactory results in the laboratory flasks at both temperatures.