Author(s): Hinojosa IA
Floating marine debris (FMD) is reported from all oceans. The bulk of FMD are plastics, which due to their longevity cause multiple negative impacts on wildlife and environment. Identifying the origins of FMD (land- or sea-based) is important to take the necessary steps to diminish their abundance. Using ship surveys we examined the abundance, composition and distribution of FMD during the years 2002-2005 in the fjords, gulfs and channels of southern Chile. Abundances of FMD were relatively high compared with other studies, ranging from 1 to 250 items km(-2). The majority (approximately 80%) of FMD was composed of styrofoam (expanded polystyrene), plastic bags and plastic fragments. Styrofoam, which is intensively used as flotation device by mussel farms, was very abundant in the northern region but rarely occurred in the southern region of the study area. Food sacks from salmon farms were also most common in the northern region, where approximately 85% of the total Chilean mussel and salmon harvest is produced. Plastic bags, which could be from land- or sea-based sources, were found throughout the entire study area. Our results indicate that sea-based activities (mussel farming and salmon aquaculture) are responsible for most FMD in the study area. In order to reduce FMDs in the environment, in addition to stronger legislation and identification of potential sources, we suggest environmental education programs and we encourage public participation (e.g. in beach surveys and clean-ups).