Keepers of the Deep
Deep Water Marine Debris Research off the California Coast
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The extent of marine debris and its potential impacts to organisms living in deepwater habitats on the sea floor was unknown…until now. Over the last 15 years, scientists from NOAA Fisheries in Santa Cruz and the University of California Santa Barbara have been surveying fishes and habitats in depths to 365 m (1,200 feet) off California, making direct observations from the manned submersible Delta. These researchers are now quantifying the types and locations of marine debris that are found during these surveys.
Commercial and recreational fishing was the predominant source of debris. General mariner activity was also a source of debris on offshore banks of southern California. A small amount of military debris was found only in southern California. Most debris in this study was made of plastic, which likely will accumulate in the environment for many years. The most obvious negative impacts were from commercial traps and nets that continued to capture and kill organisms, such as crabs. On the other hand, debris also provided habitat to some fishes and large invertebrates.
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