The waste present on the beaches increases citizens’ awareness of the extent of pollution; however the seabed (even at short distances from the shore) is out of sight of most of society. The highest waste densities ever reported in the planet’s seas have been found in the seabed of the Strait of Messina, with variations ranging from 121,000 to as much as 1.3 million items per square kilometer.
Some reports support the hypothesis that the seabed represents a last sink for all lost and discarded materials unless they are intercepted by the beaches. 8,000 items of waste per square kilometer and 20,000 items per kilometer are estimated to be lying on the deep seabed of the Mediterranean Sea. The data comes from a new report, led by the University of Barcelona, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters which is fundamentally based on data collected in 2018 and disseminated in a scientific meeting on marine littering.
Another aspect to consider is that trawl investigations cannot be used in several areas as there are still unexploded ammunition discharged during and after the wars in the years 1918-1980. Globally, an estimated one billion tons (Mt) of chemical weapons lie at the bottom of the ocean and these pose another risk to both marine and human life. Global annual waste production is also expected to rise over the next 30 years. In general it is estimated that 62% of the dirt accumulated on the seabed is made up of plastic, “which is relatively light and easy to carry by currents over long distances”. In addition, experts highlight the problem of ghost nets and abandoned fishing gear in general which, together with other waste, contribute to threatening almost 700 species, 17% of which are on the IUCN (Union for the Conservation of Nature) red list.
Certainly, being aware of the beauty and wealth we possess but not knowing how to protect it is not only a great sin but a shameful fault. Being in the newspapers and the subject of studies by scientists and experts in the sector who assess the problem and make catastrophic predictions for the years to come does not fill us with pride and worries us not a little. As usual, uncivil and irresponsible attitudes have a detrimental effect on the entire planet.