birdThis site includes graphics related to marine litter in the Arctic, produced by PAME or others.

The most visible effect of pollution on marine organisms is the entanglement of wildlife in marine litter. The photo on the right was taken by H. Gladier (

Studies have shown that millions of animals that live in the oceans are debilitated, mutilated and killed by marine litter every year. Marine litter can be transported by ocean currents over long distances, and is found in all marine environments, even in remote areas in the open oceans and the deep sea.

See also Marine Litter Vital Arctic Graphics from GRID-Arendal.

Arctic Marine Litter Graphics
All use is allowed and is encouraged, but please source by providing a link to this site or cite the producer (PAME).

litter beachSource: International Coastal Cleanup Report 2017 (Ocean Conservancy).

Which Plastic Float

Source: GRID-Arendal (Maphoto/Riccardo Pravettoni) - The graphic has been remade by PAME.

Composition of waste 1

Source: What a Waste (2012) - The World Bank.

Figure II: There are a variety of international marine litter-related instruments, including general obligations to protect the marine environment, specific obligations to prevent pollution, and obligations to promote biodiversity. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has recently examined many of those instruments, summarized in the diagram below.

02 LA Policy

Figure III: To complement the information obtained directly from beach surveys, proxies are used to determine the relative contribution of the different sources of marine litter and to provide information on the size and geographical distribution of the drivers or activities leading to the release of man-made materials into the environment.
03 LA Sources Drivers V3 L
Figure III.2: A complete understanding of the input of litter, including microplastics, into the Arctic marine environment needs consideration of the source sectors and the mechanisms of release as well as the pathways by which the debris reaches the marine environment (Figure III.2). If the release occurs in the terrestrial environment, there has to be a pathway or combination of pathways, connecting the point of release with the point of entry into the marine environment. Rivers and other waterways and wind or atmospheric circulation constitute such pathways.

04 LA Pathways V4

Figure III.3: Marine litter, including microplastics, has been observed in all environmental compartments across the Arctic marine environment (Figure III.3 below). Even in some locations distant from hubs of human activity, marine litter abundance is within the same order of magnitude to that of populated areas close to urban centers (Hallanger and Gabrielsen, 2018). It is important to note that the geographic distribution of documented observations of marine litter, including microplastics, is heavily dominated by higher accessibility and increased research activity in the Atlantic Arctic (Norwegian, Greenland and Barents Sea), as well as in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska and their coastal areas. Compositionally speaking, data regarding materials other than plastic is only available for beach and sea-floor surveys, as sea ice, surface waters, water column, and sediment studies have only focused on the concentration of plastic litter and microplastics.

05 LA Distribution

Figure III.5: A schematic synthesis of the different modes of interaction with biota.
06 LA Biota V2

Figure III.6: Plastic in Fumars.

07 LA Fulmar V3

Other Sources



Plastic pollution reaching record levels in once pristine Arctic (BBC video)
Plastic waste is increasing in the supposedly pristine wilderness of the Arctic.Scientists say almost everywhere they have looked in the Arctic Ocean, they’ve found plastic pollution. In the northern fjords of Norway, one man is on a mission to pick up as much plastic as he can. 

Link to video:
Screen Shot 2018 02 08 at 15.28.59

shutterstock 29795515The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shippingIndeed, the safety of ships operating in the harsh, remote and vulnerable polar areas and the protection of the pristine environments around the two poles have always been a matter of concern for IMO and many relevant requirements, provisions and recommendations have been developed over the years.

​IMO has adopted the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) and related amendments to make it mandatory under both the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The Polar Code entered into force on 1 January 2017. This marks an historic milestone in the Organization’s work to protect ships and people aboard them, both seafarers and passengers, in the harsh environment of the waters surrounding the two poles.

The Polar Code (click for full text) is intended to cover the full range of shipping-related matters relevant to navigation in waters surrounding the two poles – ship design, construction and equipment; operational and training concerns; search and rescue; and, equally important, the protection of the unique environment and eco-systems of the polar regions.

polar codeApplication
Only vessels that intend to operate within the Arctic and Antarctic areas as defined in the Polar Code need to comply with the code. The areas are as follows (also see map on the right):
  • Arctic: In general north of 60° N but limited by a line from Greenland; south at 58° - north of Iceland, southern shore of Jan Mayen - Bjørnøya – Cap Kanin Nos.
  • Antarctic: South of 60° S.
The safety part of the Polar Code applies to ships certified under SOLAS, i.e. cargo ships of 500 GT or more, and to all passenger ships.

Ships constructed on or after 1 January 2017 shall comply with the safety part of Polar Code at delivery.

Ships constructed before 1 January 2017 shall comply with the safety part of the Polar Code by the first intermediate or renewal survey, whichever occurs first, after 1 January 2018.

The environmental part of the Polar Code applies to all ships certified under MARPOL Annexes I, II, IV and V respectively. Existing and new ships certified under MARPOL shall comply with the environmental requirements by 1 January 2017. This means that fishing vessels (that carry MARPOL certificates) will also have to comply with the environmental part of the code, although not carrying any SOLAS certificates.

Text from DNV.

shutterstock 35295883PAME and the Polar Code
In 2009, PAME released the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) which recommended that the Arctic States cooperatively support efforts at the IMO to augment global ship safety and pollution prevention conventions with specific Arctic requirements. This recommendation was further complemented by Arctic Council Ministers issuing a declaration “encourag[ing] active cooperation within the [IMO] on development of relevant measures to reduce the environmental impacts of shipping in Arctic waters.” More recent Arctic Council Declarations, including the Iqaluit Declaration (2015) and the Fairbanks Declaration (2017), contain similar calls for closer collaboration between the Arctic Council and the IMO on issues of Arctic shipping remains.Since 2012, the PAME has consistently encouraged the timely implementation of the Polar Code, and now that the Code is in force, encourages Arctic and Observers States to continue to work towards a harmonized and effective implementation. Complementing these calls to action, PAME is also developing a Polar Code information brochure, and has created the Arctic Shipping Best Practices Information Forum to assist with implementation of the Polar Code.

The Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum
PAME's establishment of the Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum is in response to the Polar Code. The aim of the Forum is to raise awareness of its provisions amongst all those involved in or potentially affected by Arctic marine operations and to facilitate the exchange of information and best practices between the Forum members on specific shipping topics, including but not limited to; hydrography, search and rescue logistics, industry guidelines and ship equipment, systems and structure. A publicly accessible web-portal will be created with information specific to each topic.

More on the Forum here.

IMG 1371International Conference on Harmonized implementation of the Polar Code
The Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Traf)i organised together with PAME an international Polar Code conference as part of Finland’s Chairmanship programme in February 2018. At this conference, the Arctic Council member states, seafarers and industry representatives shared their experiences of Polar Code implementation during the first year of its enhancement. The conference website is available here.

Session I Introduction, session moderated by Dr. Anita Mäkinen (Finnish Transport Safety Agency)
IMG 1378Session II Challenges of the Implementation of the Polar Code for Administrations, session moderated by Dr. Anita Mäkinen (Finnish Transport Safety Agency)

Session III Challenges of the Implementation of the Polar Code for Seafarers, session moderated by Rob Hindley (Aker Arctic Technology Inc)

Session IV Identified challenges and future solutions, session moderated by Rob Hindley (Aker Arctic Technology Inc)

IMO in the polar environment: the Polar Code explained

Infographics from IMO:

How the Polar Code protects the environment English infographic

Polar Code Ship Safety Infographic smaller
From the Arctic Protected Areas: Indicator Report

The extent of protected areas in the Arctic’s marine environment (Fig. 6) has almost quadrupled since 1980 (Fig. 7). In 2016, 4.7% of the Arctic marine area (860,000 km2) was protected, which, when considered at a pan-Arctic scale, falls short of the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 goal of 10% of coastal and marine areas to be protected by 2020 (Fig. 7). The marine protected areas are dominated by several very large areas and some parts of the Arctic marine ecosystem was poorly protected in 2016.

Figure 6: Marine protected areas in the Arctic classified according to their IUCN Management Category, 2016.

All but 8% of the 334 current marine protected areas found within the CAFF Boundary have been assigned
an IUCN Management Category. Protected areas falling in Category IV, Habitat/Species Management Areas,
cover the largest area overall. Figure 8 shows the percentage of protected areas in each IUCN Management
Category in 2016.

Figure 7: Trend in marine protected area coverage within the CAFF boundary, 1900-2016.

Figure 8: Distribution of marine protected areas across each of the six IUCN Management Categories, 2016.
This site overviews participants of the Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum. According to the Terms of reference of the Forum, the "Arctic States intend Forum participation to be open to Arctic States, Permanent Participants and Arctic Council Observers as well as any widely-recognized professional organizations dedicated to improving safe and environmentally sound marine operations in the Arctic as demonstrated by expertise and experience in Arctic shipping and/or related issues..."

To become a participant, please contact PAME (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Please click the boxes for information on each participant

group photoThe 6th EA Workshop on Ecosystem Approach Guidelines and Integrated Ecosystem Assessment, co-sponsored by the Joint Ecosystem Approach Expert Group (PAME, AMAP, CAFF, SDWG) and the ICES was held 9-11 january 2018 in Seattle, WA, USA.

Program, background documents and registration:
  • Workshop program here
  • Background document here
Workshop objectives:
1. Scope and start work on development of guidelines for Ecosystem Approach to management (EA) in the Arctic.
shutterstock 2035259112. Review status of work on developing and doing Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) to develop best practices for Arctic IEA.

Background: The Joint (PAME, AMAP, CAFF, SDWG) Ecosystem Approach expert group (EA-EG) has held 5 workshops in 2011-2015 on various aspects of development of EA to the management of Arctic marine ecosystems. A first International Conference on EA implementation in the Arctic was held in Fairbanks, Alaska, in August 2016.

The Joint EA-EG prepared a report on ‘Status of Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Management in the Arctic’ (download here) that was delivered through PAME to Senior Arctic Officials and Ministers. In the Fairbanks Declaration from the Ministerial meeting in May 2016, the ministers reaffirmed the need for an ecosystem approach to management in the Arctic, and encouraged future efforts to develop practical guidelines for implementing an ecosystem approach. The Joint EA-EG has developed a framework with six elements for implementing the EA in the Arctic.

The first element is to identify (geographically) the ecosystem to be managed, and this has been done through delineation of the Arctic marine environment into 18 Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs-download here). Another key element of the framework is Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA), which is the step where the overall conditions and status of the ecosystem are assessed, including impacts (singular and cumulative) of human activities which take place or are planned in the given ecosystem.Carrying out an IEA is scientifically demanding, but is nevertheless essential for effective EA implementation.

The work at the 6th EA workshop will focus on two related subjects:
  • Development of EA guidelines, as requested by the Arctic Council ministers1, and
  • share and summarize information and experiences with integrated assessments of ecosystem status as a step toward developing best practices for Arctic IEA, for measuring trends and pressures for coastal and marine areas (which is a follow-up of EBM recommendation 3.5 from Kiruna in 2013).
The 6th EA workshop is co-sponsored by the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which has established regional working groups for doing IEAs, e.g. for the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea LMEs, including one group jointly with PAME and PICES for the Central Arctic Ocean (WGICA). Within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the USA, there is a program for IEA which is also supporting the planning and conduct of the workshop. The planning group for the workshop will prepare a background document that will be circulated to participants prior to the workshop in January. The background document will provide more information and guidance for the work to be carried out at the workshop.

1 Fairbanks Declaration (2017), paragraph 32: Reaffirm the need for an ecosystem approach to management in the Arctic, welcome the Status of Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Management in the Arctic Report, and encourage future efforts to develop practical guidelines for implementing an ecosystem approach.


Session 1: Definitions, concepts and EA framework
Session 2: Guidelines for EA implementation in the Arctic (breakout groups)
  • No presentations
Session 3: Practical experience with IEA
Session 3A - ICES work and experiences in IEA
Session 3B – NOAA IEA program
  • IEA in Alaska (joint PDF)
    • Eastern Bering Sea (Kirstin Holsman)
    • Gulf of Alaska (Jamal Moss)
  • IEA in California Current (Chris Harvey)
  • Ecosystem Status Reports/ Ecosystem Considerations (Stephani Zador AFSC)
  • Traditonal Knowledge and Co-managment (TBC)
  • Local and Traditonal Knowledge (Harry Brower)
  • Non-market Valuation (Dan Lew, AFSC)
  • Human Dimensions (Steve Kasperski, AFSC)
  • Risk Assessment (Jameal Samhouri, NWFSC)

Session 3C – Experiences from IEA work in the Arctic Council and other jurisdictional frameworks