© Inter-Research 2016. The impact of moon phase on the global nocturnal vertical distribution of acoustic scattering layers (SLs) in the upper 200 m was studied during the Malaspina expedition that circumnavigated the world. We assessed the nocturnal weighted mean depths and the vertical extension of the SL (the range between the upper 25th percentile and lower 75th percentile of the backscatter) and used a generalized additive model to reveal the relationship between the nocturnal vertical distribution of the SL and moon phase, as well as other environmental factors. Moon phase significantly affected the SL distribution on a global scale, in contrast to other factors such as dissolved oxygen, temperature and fluorescence, which each correlated with nocturnal SL distribution during the large geographic coverage. Full moon caused a deepening effect on the nocturnal SL. Contrary to expectations, the shallowest distribution was not observed during the darkest nights (new moon) and there was no difference in vertical distribution between new moon and intermediate moon phases. We conclude that the trend of deepening SL during approximately full moon (bright nights) is a global phenomenon related to anti-predator behavior.