Desktop Study on Marine Litter

Desktop Study on Marine LitterPAME conducted the “Desktop Study on Marine Litter, including Microplastics in the Arctic” as part of the first phase of a Marine Litter Project included in the 2017-2019 Work Plan. This Study contains five sections:

  1. Rationale, Objectives and Geographic Scope
  2. Applicable Governance Frameworks;
  3. Literature Review;
  4. Knowledge Gaps; and
  5. Main Findings and Next Steps

The development of the Desktop Study was driven by the need to better understand the state of knowledge of marine litter in the Arctic. The objectives of the Desktop Study are to:

  1. evaluate the scope of marine litter in the Arctic and its effects on the Arctic marine environment;
  2. enhance knowledge and awareness of marine litter in the Arctic;
  3. enhance cooperation by the eight Arctic States to reduce negative impacts of marine litter on the Arctic marine environment; and
  4. contribute to the prevention and/or reduction of marine litter pollution in the Arctic and its impact on marine organisms, habitats, public health and safety, and to reduce the socioeconomic costs litter causes.

The Desktop Study improves our understanding of the status and impacts of marine litter, including microplastics, in the Arctic region. This kind of compilation has not previously been done for the entire Arctic region and is by no means comprehensive.

Section II contains a brief review of the governance frameworks applicable to combatting marine litter, including not only Arctic Council efforts, but also other international and regional instruments designed explicitly either to tackle marine litter or address pollution more broadly.

The core of the report, Section III, is a literature review that considers the sources, drivers, and pathways of marine litter, including microplastics, entering the marine environment, information on current knowledge of its distribution, how it interacts with and impacts marine biota, and efforts underway to monitor marine litter. In Section IV, the Study identifies a number of knowledge gaps before summarizing main findings and possible next steps in Section V.

The Desktop Study identifies potential next steps to further examine and address marine litter, including microplastics, in the Arctic Ocean and inform future work under the Arctic Council as summarized in Section V. "There is a need for more comprehensive knowledge on Arctic-specific marine litter, including microplastics, sources, pathways, and distribution, as well as effects on the Arctic marine environment. Developing a Regional Action Plan (RAP) on marine litter in the Arctic is timely, recognizing that the RAP can be modified over time based on the state of knowledge. Developing a monitoring program as part of, or in parallel to, the development of a RAP is particularly valuable to establish a baseline of marine litter, understand changes in distribution and composition, and inform decision-making."