A beach litter survey was carried out on Signy Island, South Orkney Islands during the 1992/93 austral summer. Similar surveys were carried out during the 1990/91 and 1991/92 summers. Debris was cleared from three study beaches, Foca Cove, Cummings Cove and Starfish Cove, each month between November 1992 and March 1993 and items recovered were identified, counted, weighed and any clues regarding their origin noted. At Foca Cove, a total of 23 items were recovered with a combined weight of 4.45 kg. At Cummings Cove, a total of 42 items were recovered (9.10 kg). No debris was found at Starfish Cove. Comparison with the 1990/91 and 1991/92 litter surveys showed a dramatic drop in both the weight of debris and the total number of items recovered. For example, at Foca Cove, the total weight of debris recovered fell by 80% and the number of items recovered by 83% over the three year survey period. At the same beach over the three years the numbers of polypropylene packaging bands fell by 93%. The results show a very encouraging decline in the incidence of marine debris. However, the reasons for the decline are unclear. It may be due to a reduction in fishing activity around the South Orkney Islands because the area has been closed to fin-fishing, or to ships complying with recently agreed regulations designed to protect the Southern Ocean environment.
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