The Messina Strait is an undersea bridge that connects the island of Sicily to the Italian peninsula. It was recently discovered that this area of the Messina Strait contains the world’s highest density of ocean floor litter. In some places of this region, the density of marine trash exceeds 1 million objects per square kilometer. This was revealed in a review study published in the journal ‘Environmental Research Letters’ recently.
Furthermore, the current amount of marine debris on the ocean floor could increase by 3 billion tons of metric (Mt) during the next 30 years. Miquel Canals of Barcelona University’s Earth Sciences Faculty and Georg Hanke of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) both acknowledged this. The researchers undertook the research in order to provide independent scientific support and advice to the EU’s policy.
Barcelona University was the lead author of this study. They’ve compiled the results of scientific gatherings on macro litter. In May 2018, the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Germany and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) organized a seminar. A group of 25 scientists from around the world worked on the issues, which included methodology, data demands, balancing, and advanced development requirements.
This study provided a unified and up-to-date understanding of human-caused ocean floor litter. It also provides information that may be used to improve the research by better understanding the presence, quantity, and distribution of trash so that suitable interventions can be taken. The report also highlights the need for a new methodology to cover new domains and new approaches to allow for quantitative evaluations.
LITTERING ON THE OCEAN FLOOR PRECEDES HUMAN ARRIVAL
Littering on the ocean floor is rapidly rising. On the other hand, the hotspots of marine garbage have yet to be located. Despite its depth of approximately 10,900 meters, the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, which is the world’s deepest point, has ocean floor trash. According to experts, some ocean floor debris has the density of enormous landfills.
Despite our scientific community’s best efforts, the amount of garbage on the ocean floor remains unclear. The semi-enclosed and landlocked seas, as well as coastal regions and marine zones near large river mouths, are the most affected marine areas. Even sites where fishing is done on a regular basis are affected by marine debris. Miquel Canals of Marine Geosciences discovered this. Canals also stressed the importance of waste treatment volume. As a result, ocean floor litter has a significant impact on Third World countries.
HOW MARINE LITTER REACHES SEAFLOOR?
Plastics, metal, fishing equipment, glass, paper, and textiles are among the most common materials found on the ocean floor in hotspots. The spread of trash on the seabed is influenced by submarine relief, geomorphological features, and the kind of seafloor. Furthermore, ocean dynamics such as water flow, storms, and ocean currents control the transport and dispersion of marine trash from coastal areas to the deep bottom.
Light garbage is transported through areas of the ocean where strong currents congregate. Finally, the materials are amassed in peaceful and desolate oceanic environments. The nature of marine rubbish, on the other hand, has an impact on its dispersal and accumulation. Plastics that are lightweight and easily transported to the depths of the seafloor account for over 62 percent of the litter on the ocean floor. Heavy objects such as nets, barrels, and cables, on the other hand, remain hanging and entangled at one location.
LITTERING ON THE OCEAN FLOOR KILLS MARINE LIFE
Littering on the ocean floor poses a serious threat to marine biodiversity. Marine garbage has a negative impact on around 700 aquatic species, with 17 percent of these being IUCN red-listed. Due to ghost fishing, fishing gear that becomes entangled on the seafloor has created serious ecological problems for decades. The slow decomposition of high-tensile polymer fishing nets exacerbates the negative impact on the marine ecosystem.
Trawling and dredging are examples of additional human activities that activate secondary distribution by remobilizing and disintegrating ocean floor trash. Concentrations of garbage on the seafloor easily attract additional things, aggravating the problem. It is absurd to believe that certain species will profit from marine waste. Pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, medicines, radioactive substances, and other xenobiotic compounds, on the other hand, are exceedingly resistant to decomposition and pose a serious hazard to marine life.
Littering on the Mediterranean Sea’s ocean floor is a severe environmental issue. Large accumulations can be found along the Catalan coast, where powerful storms have left beaches littered with trash.
AN ACTION PLAN TO REDUCE MARINE WASTE
Simple, cost-effective procedures can be used to identify and remove floating debris and beach litter. Despite this, the enormous depth and distance of marine regions across the globe make ocean floor littering a problem for even current technologies. In-situ observations, as well as ways for sampling the marine dump, are possible thanks to research studies.
Advanced technology, on the other hand, has enabled significant advancements. Although there are drawbacks to physical sampling, the use of ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) is important for in-situ observation. Bottom trawling is also limited due to the inability to pinpoint the exact spot.
The development of international policies and worldwide agreements requires data and knowledge of marine dumps. The importance of seafloor macro litter in determining international conservation and protection regimes that prioritize precise metrics is critical.
Littering on the ocean floor has spread to every nook and cranny of the seabed, necessitating prompt management methods to avoid additional accumulation and waste generation.