A simple technique for counting marine debris at sea reveals steep litter gradients between the Straits of Malacca and the Bay of Bengal

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A size and distance-based technique was used to assess the distribution, abundance and composition of floating marine debris in the northeast Indian Ocean. Densities of floating litter (>1 cm) were greater and more variable in the Straits of Malacca (578 +/- 219 items km(-2)) than in oceanic waters of the Bay of Bengal (8.8 +/- 1.4 items km(-2)). The density of debris in the Straits was correlated with terrestrial vegetation, and peaked close to urban centres, indicating the predominance of land-based sources. In the Bay of Bengal, debris density increased north of 17 degrees N mainly due to small fragments probably carried in run-off from the Ganges Delta. The low densities in the Bay of Bengal relative to model predictions may result from biofouling-induced sinking and wind-driven export of debris items. Standardised data collection protocols are needed for counts of floating debris, particularly as regards the size classes used, to…

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