New seabed survey uncovers the depths of Europe's marine junk problem

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New seabed survey uncovers the depths of Europe's marine junk problem

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A new survey of the seabed around Europe has uncovered the depths of the marine rubbish problem.

Debris such as bottles, plastic bags, fishing nets and other types of human litter has been found throughout the Mediterranean – from the continental shelf of Europe through to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 2,000 kilometres from land.

The international study saw scientists from 15 organisations take nearly 600 samples from depths of 35 to 4,500 metres across the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

Litter was found at each site, causing a problem in the marine environment as it can be mistaken for food and also entangle coral and fish.

The residue of burnt coal – known as “clinker” – thought to have been dumped by steam ships, was also evident.

Plastic is the main offender, accounting for 41 percent of marine junk, while derelict fishing gear makes up 34 percent.

The report was able to map out the path plastics can take as they are carried out into deep underwater canyons, where the most dense accumulations of debris were found.

A = Plastic bag entrapped by a small drop stone recorded at the HAUSGARTEN observatory (Arctic) at 2500 m; B = Litter recovered within the net of a trawl in Blanes open slope at 1500 m; C = “Heineken” beer can in the upper Whittard canyon at 950 m; D = Plastic bag in Blanes Canyon at 896 m; E = “Uncle Benn’s Express Rice” packet at 967 m in Darwin Mound with the ROV “Lynx” (National Oceanography Centre, UK); F = Cargo net entangled in a cold-water coral colony at 950 m in Darwin Mound