Monitoring the Falkland Shores – Marine Debris

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 Marine debris in the last decades has been a growing problem especially since the advent of plastic. Here, in the remote Southwest Atlantic, marine debris is recorded - but so far no comprehensive surveys have been conducted across the Falkland archipelago to quantify or identify the most common types.

To investigate further a marine debris questionnaire was sent to coastal landowners across the Falkland Islands. We received over 50% of the questionnaires back, from which 90% of landowners found some form of marine debris along their coastlines.

 

Plastic debris was the most common item of marine debris found (57%), followed by fishing gear such as nets and ropes. In general marine debris in the Falklands is much lower than other parts of the world, but the common factor is the prevalence of plastic debris.

final_mapMap of the Falkland landowners returning the marine debris questionnaire

 

piechartOccurrence of marine debris types found across the Falkland shores

 Plastic is now thought to dominate marine debris globally. Plastic and litter can be either dumped overboard from vessels at sea or land blown from nearby landfill sites – most of the landfill sites on the Falklands are located near to the coast. Plastic debris may even come from outside the Falkland waters - its lightweight floating properties means it has the potential to travel thousands of miles and reach remote islands.

As part of the project we are hoping to monitor selected beaches in more detail. A detailed marine debris survey conducted at Kidney Island found the majority of debris (58%) as discarded fishing gear and 28% plastic (mainly water and soft drink bottles). Different beaches in different locations will accumulate varying amounts and compositions of marine debris which in turn are affected by local tides, currents and their proximity to sources of marine debris e.g. Kidney Island is in close proximity to Berkeley Sound - an area frequently used by vessels. Monitoring and understanding the long term changes of marine debris and abundances in the Falklands is still a challenge which has not until now been tackled.

If you wish to receive an electronic copy of the marine debris questionnaire results please reply to this email.

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Are you a landowner or land manager, a school group, conservation group or someone who can get permission to access land and is interested in conducting a marine debris survey this summer?

You will need to remove the litter from a stretch of coastline (no more than 1km long).The coast can be sandy, shingle or rocky. You will need several large sacks to collect the rubbish and some scales to weigh the different components of the debris you have collected and a notebook and pen to record the information.

Email here for more information and a form to complete. Your data will be part of a wider study helping us to understand more about marine debris and its impacts in the Falkland Islands. 

Photos: Sarah Crofts, Paul Trowell

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