Plastics in the Arctic and the sub-Arctic region

Working Group on Marine Litter
Published: 24 June 2020

​​The Working Group on Marine Litter (WGMLdevelops guidance on seafloor litter and microplastic monitoring and assessment to support the data needs of our member countries and the wider science and assessment community internationally. 

The group has already mapped seafloor litter/microplastic monitoring aproaches and discussed the best channels to distribute the key information they produce by establishing an overview of national and international drivers and linkages. They are working towards a proposal on a seafloor litter and microplastics research and monitoring strategy for ICES, in conjunction with member countries, a range of regional organizations, and ICES Data Centre. This work will advance our understanding of the prevalence and impacts of marine litter and microplastics. 

Despite the significant increase in available data on microplastic pollution and litter globally, including the Arctic, status reports lack standardization in methodology and reporting consistency. Therefore, WGML works closely together with the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme Working Group (AMAP) of the Arctic Council and their litter and microplastics expert group to define and harmonise monitoring approaches. 

Large concentrations of litter and microplastics are found in the Arctic. Future mapping and analysis of marine litter status and trends in strategic partnerships across the Atlantic Ocean, including the Arctic, the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, and the North Pacific Ocean, will assist in figuring out how marine litter and microplastics move across wider regions and how adequate measures can be put in place. 

To stimulate science progress and interaction, WGML is supporting the International Symposium on Plastics in the Arctic and the sub-Arctic region (2-4​ March 2021) which will focus on scientific knowledge of the problem and the best practices to deal with the huge challenge. The symposium is expected to build a foundation of science that can be used to deliver information and advice for decision-makers.

The Working Group on Marine Litter (​WGML)​ addresses scientific questions relating to marine litter and microplastic monitoring, assessment and research. 

Back to ICES Science Highlights: science and advice in a changing Arctic​.​​​

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​Plas​tic pollution on the Arctic coast.

Taken from ICES WGML Report 2018, this figure shows that data for the Arctic is sparse. The available data and assessment suggest that the smoothed probability a trawl contains plastic litter diminishes towards the North.​ 
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Plastics in the Arctic and the sub-Arctic region

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