Seabed litter distribution in the high seas of the Flemish Pass area (NW Atlantic)

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García-Alegre, Ana; Román-Marcote, Esther; Gago, Jesús; González-Nuevo, Gonzalo; Sacau, Mar; Durán Muñoz, Pablo
Sci. Mar. (Scientia Marina), 84, 1, 93
Seabed litter of the Flemish Pass area (NW Atlantic Ocean) was analysed and described using data from the EU-Spain groundfish survey (2006-2017 period). This study presents baseline information on seabed litter in this area. The Flemish Pass is located in areas beyond national jurisdiction within the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization Regulatory Area Division 3L. A total of 1169 valid bottom trawl hauls were analysed (104-1478 m depth). Litter was found in 8.3% of the hauls, with mean densities of 1.4±0.2 items km–2 and 10.6±5.2 kg km–2. An increasing pattern with depth was found, the highest densities of seabed litter being identified in the deepest areas located in the Flemish Pass channel and down the northeastern flank of the Grand Bank. Fishing was found to be the main source of marine litter, and 61.9% of the hauls with litter presence showed litter included in the fisheries-related litter category. Whereas in most cases the litter was composed of small fragments of rope, in other cases it was composed of entire fishing gears such as traps. Plastics, metal and other anthropogenic litter were the next most abundant categories, accounting for 18.6%, 16.5% and 12.4% of the total, respectively.