The seventh annual beach debris survey was carried out at Signy Island, South Orkney Islands during the 1996/97 austral summer. Debris was cleared each month between December and March from three study beaches, Cummings Cove, Foca Cove and Starfish Cove. The debris was counted, measured and classified by type, material, weight and size categories. Logistical difficulties prevented a January survey from being carried out at Cummings Cove. A total of 34 items weighing 1.61 kg were collected at Cummings Cove, 18 items weighing 1.42 kg were found at Foca Cove and 6 items with a total weight of 0.68 kg were found at Starfish Cove. The total amount of marine debris collected from the three beaches was the lowest recorded since the surveys began in 1990, both in terms of weight and number of items. This follows a continuing downward trend since 1993/94. The proportion of plastic items found remained high, accounting for 79% of all items found. Despite the ban on the use of packaging bands aboard fishing vessels which was brought into force by CCAMLR in 1996, almost half (49%) of the plastic items found at Signy were packaging bands. These had all been cut. Although the amount of debris collected at Signy Island in 1996/97 was the lowest ever recorded, the considerable number of packaging bands still being washed ashore indicates that CCAMLR members must take further steps to ensure that vessels are aware of, and comply with, regulations preventing the disposal of debris in the Southern Ocean.
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