The pollution of the oceans by anthropogenic litter has been identified as one of the major environmental threats of the twenty-first century. Every year, millions of tons of solid waste are discharged into the sea with harmful environmental implications.

Abundance and qualitative composition of benthic marine litter were investigated in a coastal area of the central Mediterranean Sea. Almost 30 km of video footage, collected by a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) between 5 and 30 m depth, were analysed.

Mean litter density was found to be 0,11±0,16 items/m2. General wastes, made up almost entirely of plastic objects, were the dominant sources of debris representing 68% of the overall litter. The remaining 32% consisted of lost or abandoned fishing gears. Synthetic polymers, considering both fishing gears and general waste, represented 73% of total debris items. The authors state that the obtained results are comparable with litter amounts reported in other Mediterranean sites at similar depths.

It is highlighted that the study contributes to the assessment of the reference ecological status at national level under both the MSFD and the UNEP/MAP regional Plan and to the identification of composition and sources of marine litter in the study area, providing baseline data to design specific management measures.

It is suggested that regular monitoring surveys as well as those performed opportunistically with different aims on irregular basis could support the collection and analysis of videos, images and associated data on marine debris. This approach may help to optimize the strategy of monitoring, especially in shallow waters.

Consoli et al. (2019) Composition and abundance of benthic marine litter in a coastal area of the central Mediterranean Sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin 136:243-247.