Plastic Waste Builds Up In The Far Reaches Of The Pristine Arctic

Photo by Roxanne Desgagnés on Unsplash

Plastic is a major issue to our world’s oceans and unfortunately the Arctic ocean is not exempt from disturbance. A recent report from Norwegian researchers describes the amount of trash that they discovered.

The information was presented at the Arctic Frontiers conference by the Norwegian Polar Institute. The researchers outlined the amount of plastic and the harm that is being caused. The hope is that their findings will help push for more research into the impact that plastics have on the Arctic.

Research shows that up to 234 particles have been found concentrated into just one litre of melted sea ice. That’s much higher than the open ocean.

The problem is that the sea ice forms from the top and due to plastic particles floating, the ice and plastic get bonded. As we see an increase in ice melt, more plastic will be released that has already been bonded to the ice and increases the risk to Arctic sea life.

The main source of plastics in the Arctic is from the fishing industry. It is estimated that 80 percent of plastic found in the Arctic has been thrown over the sides of the boats or cut loose when nets have become entangled.

The fishing industry historically has not been very aware of the environmental damage being caused by some practices but it appears that they are become more aware of it. Fisherman in Norway are becoming increasingly concerned that the amount of pollution found is harming their reputation for fish from pristine environments.

Fishermen in Norway have started a salvage practice known as Fishing for Litter where they salvage plastic they catch. As well more and more paper packaging is being used rather than plastic. Unfortunately, cut nets and plastic can still be seen littering beaches as not everyone is taking part of environmental friendly practices.

Fishing nets, plastic, and other debris become “ghost gear”, which drifts through the sea and entangles marine life before being washed ashore. The rest of the debris is typically broken down by the sea and some is eaten by fish and birds that mistake the debris for food.

The hope is this research will become a larger call to action. Currently there is no systematic survey of all micro plastic in the Arctic but the researchers are hoping that with the help of “citizen scientists”, they can compile a database.

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