Biologists from the SWFSC Fisheries Ecology Division, in collaboration with researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara and John Dutton Media, have launched "Keepers of the Deep". This 6-minute video focuses attention on deepwater marine debris off California’s coast.
The extent of marine debris and its potential impacts on organisms living in deepwater habitats on the sea floor was largely unknown off California… until now. Over the last 15 years, Mary Yoklavich (SWFSC) and Milton Love (UCSB) have been surveying fishes and habitats in depths to 365 m (1,200 feet) off central and southern California, making direct observations from the manned submersible Delta. These researchers and their colleagues are now quantifying the types and locations of marine debris that are found during these surveys by re-examining the archived videotapes.
Commercial and recreational fishing activities were the primary source of debris. General mariner activity, depicted mostly by beverage cans, bottles, and a variety of household items, was also evident especially 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 persist in the environment for many years. The most obvious negative impacts of the debris 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. These researchers have recently re-visited many of their dive locations and will evaluate the accumulation, persistence, and transformation of debris over time.
This new video hopefully will increase public awareness of marine debris in deepwater habitats off California.
See the video:
(August 12, 2008)