Trash in the deep sea: Bringing a hidden problem to light
Using advanced technologies, such as remotely operated vehicles, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) is helping to uncover the far-reaching presence of man-made debris in deep ocean ecosystems. Over the past 25 years, we have recorded evidence of debris up to 13,000 feet deep and 300 miles offshore from waters off of central and southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, and the Gulf of California. We’ve seen trash everywhere we’ve looked.
In the greater Monterey Bay region, the majority of debris items were single-use, recyclable items. Plastic shopping bags and aluminum beverage cans were most common overall. Surprisingly, plastic and metal were found relatively more frequently at deeper depths, suggesting that the extent of marine debris on the seafloor may be far greater than known to date. MBARI researchers hope that this study will increase awareness of the growing problem of man-made debris in all parts of the ocean.
It is far too expensive and impractical to locate and retrieve debris after it reaches the deep seafloor. The best solution is to reduce our reliance upon single-use, throw away items. Recycling, reusing, and properly disposing of trash items will help to keep litter from ever entering the ocean.
Special thanks to:
Additional footage and still images courtesy of Leanne Foster, the Tangaroa Blue Foundation, and the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX).
Video producer: Linda Kuhnz
Script: Linda Kuhnz and Kyra Schlining
Narration: Kyra Schlining
Music: Whispering Waters, composed by Chuck Jonkey
MBARI press release:
Original journal article:
Schlining, K., von Thun, S., Kuhnz, L., Schlining, B., Lundsten, L., Jacobsen Stout, N., Chaney, L., & Connor, J. Debris in the deep: Using a 22-year video annotation database to survey marine litter in Monterey Canyon, central California, USA. Deep Sea Research Part I. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0967063713001039
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