Are Antarctic Specially Protected Areas safe from plastic pollution? a survey of plastic litter at Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island, Antarctica
Pablo ALMELA1* & Sergi GONZALEZ2
1 Biology Department, Autonomous University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain;
2 Antarctic Group, Spanish Meteorological Service (AEMET), Barcelona, Spain
*Corresponding author, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract A number of studies have reported in the last decades the presence of plastics in the Southern Ocean, which are liable to reach the coast and accumulate on the Antarctic Continent. Despite this, there are few data on the amount of plastic pollution on Antarctic beaches below 60°S. Here we provide valuable information about the presence of plastic debris in Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands, an Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) and a hotspot for biodiversity. A total of 129 locations with between 1 and 5 items were recorded among the 3 survey sites on Byers Peninsula. Most of the observed items are likely to derive from fishing and local sources such as tourism and research activities. We discuss the potential impacts of their presence on local fauna and some of the consequences on the Antarctic ecosystem. From this survey of plastic accumulation in an ASPA, we propose the implementation of mitigation strategies, such as systematic monitoring of the abundance and distribution of plastic waste, in order to identify trends in marine debris and control the levels of plastic pollution in the Maritime Antarctic region.
Keywords marine debris, plastic pollution, human impact, Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA), management, Antarctica