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A new Artic project against marine plastic pollution

Marine plastic pollution is an increasing global issue that affects coastal and marine ecosystems, which again have implications for our society and well-being. The Arctic is considered as a relatively pristine area, but today's level of plastic pollution in the region is higher than the environmental management targets. At the same time, we expect increased commercial activity in the area due to global warming and ice melting which will make parts of the Arctic more accessible. Svalbard- and the Barents Sea contribute to our welfare in many ways: among other things, it is an important area for fishing, research, tourism and nature experiences. To ensure sustainable development of the region, we need effective management tools to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.

Prevention is the most cost-effective tool we have at hand, and in terms of plastic pollution, improved waste management is important. This requires a better understanding of the human aspect surrounding the problem in order to understand why plastic is found in the environment and how to prevent further contamination.

 

The research project Marine Plastic Pollution in the Arctic (www.marp.no) will therefore acquire new knowledge that can help reduce plastic pollution in our most important marine areas. We will identify the source of marine plastic waste and find out why plastic ends up in nature and in oceans. This will provide input to more targeted management measures. In order to raise awareness about plastic pollution, several studies will be done to estimate the costs associated with plastic pollution for ecosystems, society and industry. In addition, we will evaluate regulations and incentives that affect how waste in general, but especially ship waste is handled. This includes looking at how we can reduce the amount of waste produced on fishing vessels and increase the reuse- and recycling rate of plastics.

 

The project brings together a multidisciplinary group of researchers from Norway, Russia and the United Kingdom. Norut is leading the project and has recruited SALT to contribute to the work of  identifying the source of the waste and in communication. The University of Tromsø- the Arctic University of Norway, the Kola Science Center in Russia and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory will contribute to identifying and valuating how the services we receive from the ecosystem are affected by marine plastic pollution, as well as looking at the legislation in relation to waste management at sea. The Norwegian Polar Institute and Akvaplan-niva contribute with biological competence. In addition, important industries, government agencies and NGOs are represented. Keep Norway Beatutiful contributes with expertise on beach cleaning and prevention. For several years, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators has worked for high environmental standards for tourist boats, as well as beach cleaning, and the Marine Research Institute monitors marine litter in the ocean.

 

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The Norwegian Fishermen’s Association (Norges Fiskarlag) contributes to the project and has also involved Icelandic and Russian sister organizations. They contributed to analyzing beach waste found on Svalbard in 2016 and are also part of educating researchers in the project in being able to "read the litter” to find out how waste found on the beaches end up at sea. At request from the Russian Fisheries Industry Union of the North, a Norwegian-Russian seminar was held in Murmansk September 28 2017, with participants from fisheries, management, NGOs and research. The Russian Fisheries Organization presented the preventive measures they had introduced on the basis of what they learned from the analysis of the marine litter from Svalbard beaches. This is a good example of how cooperation between research and industry can help prevent marine littering. This is the main purpose of our research project.

 

Therefore, during the Arctic Frontiers, January 2019, we invite industry, government, NGOs and researchers to discuss what measures can be implemented to reduce marine pollution in the Arctic. Together we will develop a set of recommendations that can prevent plastic pollution in the region and ensure a clean and rich sea.


Author:  Jannike Falk-Andersson (SALT and Norut)