A survey estimates more than 1.8 million pieces of garbage are strewn over the bottom of the Bay of Fundy, prompting concerns about potential harm to marine life.

The study published Thursday in Marine Pollution Bulletin found an average of 137 pieces of plastic litter, dumped or lost fishing gear and other garbage per square kilometre of ocean.

The researchers used underwater photography at 281 locations over the past three years to extrapolate the amount of garbage present in a bay known for its fisheries, and for sea life that ranges from whales to scallops.

Plastics, especially plastic bags, comprised slightly over half of the total, while fishing gear ranging from traps to gloves was close to 30 per cent, and other garbage — including tires or metal — was just over one fifth of the total waste documented.

Biologist Tony Walker, assistant professor in the school for resource and environmental studies at Dalhousie University, said the litter eliminates potential habitat by covering the bottom.

“A tire made of rubber or some metal is actually occupying space that would be benthic habitat for micro-organisms and small invertebrates,” he said in an interview.

Walker, one of six co-authors, noted the litter is occurring at a time when the organisms are expected to face stresses from climate change-induced shifts in ocean temperatures and acidity. He said the garbage “is occupying a footprint on what should otherwise be a pristine, sandy ocean habitat.”

In addition, the plastic could eventually break down into microscopic pieces that enter the food chain, he said. Walker said there’s a growing body of scientific work documenting how microplastics are ingested and held in marine life, including invertebrates such as rock crab.

Read the full and original story at ctvnews.ca

Observed debris from the Bay of Fundy seafloor video footage. Source: Benthic marine debris in the Bay of Fundy, eastern Canada: Spatial distribution and categorization using seafloor video footage