PAME launched the first bottle equipped with a GPS transmitter into the Atlantic on 12 September 2019. Called “plastic in a bottle”, the capsule will simulate how marine litter and plastics travel far distances into and out of Arctic waters. The collected data will feed into a regional action plan on marine litter and serve as an outreach tool to create awareness around the growing concerns on marine litter in the Arctic.
This first plastic in a bottle was sent off from the Reykjanes peninsula by Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Iceland’s Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources from the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Thor in conjunction with the PAME II-2019 Working Group meeting in Reykjavík. Iceland holds the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council until 2021 and places a special focus on marine litter and plastics in the Arctic.
The saying “out of sight, out of mind” does not apply to litter that has made their way into the ocean. Currents, streams, waves and wind carry marine litter across the seas. Neither the deep sea nor beaches in the Arctic are exempt from this pollution. However, when it comes to how plastics travel into and out of Arctic waters, our knowledge on the trajectories of this marine litter remains limited. With this capsule PAME is seeking to gain valuable information to better understand this problem.
Over the next few months PAME will be launching more bottles from different locations across the Arctic. The bottles were designed and built by Icelandic engineering firm Verkís. Every day, the GPS transmitter sends a signal allowing viewers to follow the journey of the bottle in real time through an online map on the PAME website. “Our aim is to show how expansively marine litter and plastics can travel and to gain a better understanding of how plastics that originate from far away end up on shores in the Arctic. The project is also a great outreach tool to create awareness around the issue of marine litter and plastics in the Arctic”, said Soffía Guðmundsdóttir, PAME’s Executive Secretary.
The PAME Working Group aims at releasing the remaining bottles in different areas across the Arctic. “We have discussed different areas with experts on oceanography and meteorology and a leading expert in Iceland on ocean currents. According to them, one could not expect an object like the plastic capsules could travel long distances to certain areas with ocean currents. Weather and waves may have substantial effects on the capsules in addition to currents,” explained Soffía.
Tackling the issue of marine litter and especially plastics in the Arctic is one of the Arctic Council’s priorities during Iceland’s Chairmanship. At the end of its Chairmanship in May 2021, Iceland plans to provide a comprehensive regional action plan on marine litter and plastics in the Arctic to the Ministers of the Arctic Council.
PAME worked closely together with Verkís in developing the bottles. Verkís has been involved in similar projects in the past and has seen its bottles travel thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean for well over a year – reaching Norway, Scotland and the Faroe Islands after being released from Iceland.
“Verkís is thrilled to take part in conveying such an important message across. We have previously been involved in similar projects with the aim of highlighting how marine litter travels and causes problems across the oceans. One of our capsules travelled over 5000 kilometers and washed ashore in northern Norway, six months later,” Arnór Þórir Sigurðsson, Animal Ecologist at Verkís said.
Once washed ashore, a message inside the bottle will instruct the finder what to do with the bottle.
PAME released the framework for a pan-Arctic network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in 2015. It sets out a common vision for international cooperation in MPA network development and management, based on best practices and previous Arctic Council initiatives. This framework aims to inform the development of MPAs and networks of MPAs that are located within the national jurisdiction of Arctic States, and chart a course for future collaborative planning, management and actions for the conservation and protection of the Arctic marine environment.
The framework offers guidance; it is not legally binding. Each Arctic State pursues MPA development based on its own authorities, priorities and timelines.
The purpose of the pan-Arctic MPA network, composed of individual Arctic State MPA networks and other area-based conservation measures, is to protect and restore marine biodiversity, ecosystem function and special natural features, and preserve cultural heritage and subsistence resources for present and future generations.
Having a joint framework in place confers a number of advantages that can support and enhance the work of individual Arctic States, such as:
- Advancing cohesion and conservation effectiveness by strengthening ecological linkages among MPAs and MPA networks across the Arctic;
- Applying best practices for establishing and managing MPAs and MPA networks to the Arctic environment;
- Supporting achievement of domestic conservation objectives and international commitments and targets;
- Strengthening intergovernmental cooperation on MPA management and scientific issues among Arctic MPA authorities; and
- Addressing some issues of concern for shared species.
It provides an overview of the status and trends of protected areas in the Arctic. The data used represents the results of the 2016 update to the Protected Areas Database submitted by each of the Arctic Council member states.
This report uses the above-mentioned IUCN Categories, consequently, the level of protection and governance of these areas varies throughout the circumpolar region and its countries.
3. Arctic Protected Areas (Marine and Terrestrial) Overview
4. Arctic Areas Recognised Under International Conventions
5. Marine Protected Areas
6. Other Area-Based Measures Important for Arctic Marine Biodiversity
7. Terrestrial Protected Areas
This guidance is intended to inform decision-makers, practitioners, Indigenous peoples, and stakeholders involved in developing MPA networks and ecosystem-based management in the marine Arctic. Most Arctic states have established some MPAs, but are still in the early stages of filling gaps and connecting and managing MPAs as ecologically functional MPA networks (CAFF & PAME 2016).
Enabling collaboration and participation is an important aim of this project. As the stated in the Framework, the purpose of a pan-Arctic MPA network is both “to protect and restore marine biodiversity, ecosystem function and special natural features” and to “preserve cultural heritage and subsistence natural resources for present and future generations”.
The Regional Action Plan will address both sea and land-based activities, focusing on Arctic-specific marine litter sources and pathways that will play an important role in demonstrating Arctic States’ stewardship efforts towards reducing the negative impacts of marine litter, including microplastics, to the Arctic marine environment.
The Regional Action Plan may be updated in subsequent bienniums to address new and emerging information and priorities; therefore, the structure needs to be realistic and adaptable.
- Develop a first version of a Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter in the Arctic based on the Desktop Study on Marine Litter (Phase I) and other resources and information, as relevant and specific to the Arctic.
- Collaborate with other Arctic Council Working Groups working on marine litter activities, such as AMAP’s work on monitoring, CAFF’s work on impacts of marine litter on wildlife, ACAP’s work on solid waste management, and others as relevant to marine litter in the Arctic to ensure that this work is adaquetly reflected in the first version of the Regional Action Plan.
- Continue the development of outreach and communication material.