Science

Plastic waste ‘building up’ in Arctic

Plastic waste is building up in the supposedly pristine wilderness of the Norwegian Arctic, scientists say.

Researchers are particularly concerned about huge concentrations of microplastic fragments in sea ice.

They say they've found plastic litter almost everywhere in the Arctic they have looked.

Norwegian fishermen are worried that their fish stocks may lose their reputation for being untouched by pollution.

Most of the large plastic waste there comes from discarded fishing gear.

And boat owners admit it will take hundreds of years to overcome a few reckless decades of using the sea as a dump.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Norway's environment minister says politicians in the past haven't fully registered the extent of the problem.

A synthesis report from the Norwegian Polar Institute to the recent Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø says there's a great need for more research into the extent of possible harm from plastic.

It says effects have been monitored so far on zooplankton, invertebrates, fish, seabirds, and mammals.

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

Researchers explain that sea ice forms from the top. By unfortunate coincidence, plastic particles also float at the surface, so they get bonded into the ice as it freezes.

They are not yet sure how much of a threat this presents.

But they are worried about the impact on Arctic wildlife if the particles are released as sea ice continues to shrink.

Geir Wing Gabrielsen, one of the paper's authors, told BBC News: "We are finding more and more plastic waste in Svalbard, where I work. "The northern fulmar breeds in Svalbard.

"At the end of the 1970s we found very few plastic in their stomachs. In 2013 when we last investigated, some had more than 200 pieces of plastic in their stomachs.

"Other creatures are getting entangled in nets washed up on beaches – like reindeer. Some die because they can't release their antlers – we find them every year."

He said in southern Norway pollution was dominated by plastics from the home – but in Svalbard 80% of it comes from fishing activities, local and distant.

Surveys suggest that fishing crews are increasingly aware of their responsibilities now.

Jan Roger Lerbukt, manager of Hermes Fishing in Tromsø told me: "In the past 20 years I've seen a change in awareness in everyone towards protecting the environment.

"Fishing has been in our soul for thousands of years. If there's any environmental threat to the fish it's also a threat to our livelihood and that's a big concern.

"We have a reputation for a pure product and we don't want that damaged."

He agreed that trawler crews used to throw tangled nets overboard, but says they now they return them to harbour.

He says they also salvage plastic litter they catch, under a scheme called Fishing for Litter.

More and more crews are using paper packaging and moving away from plastic tape, he said.

But on a short walk along a plastic-strewn beach in Skulsfjord near Tromsø, I found clear evidence of fishing ropes still being deliberately cut.

And in the open water, "ghost nets" are easy to find.

Bo Eide, an environment consultant for Tromsø Council, conducts litter-picking on the beaches.

"People see the pictures in brochures of the pristine Arctic and they book their holidays to come here," he tells me.

"They're sometimes rather shocked to find that the Arctic in close-up is no longer how it looks in the brochures."

Norway's environment Minister Ola Elvestuen told BBC News: "It's disturbing – there's nowhere on Earth that's so far away that its not affected by plastics.

"This should be a call for action. It's been known about for years, but the magnitude of it hasn't been taken in as it should have been. We must stop the plastic pollution."

Researchers say there's been no systematic microplastics survey of all parts of the Arctic. They hope to compile an inventory, potentially with the help of "citizen scientists".

Follow Roger on Twitter.

Original Article

BBC

Related Articles

9 Comments

  1. I just like the valuable info you supply in your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly.
    I am relatively sure I will learn many new stuff right right here!

    Best of luck for the following!

  2. 916454 803802Most heavy duty trailer hitches are designed using cutting edge computer aided models and fatigue stress testing to ensure optimal strength. Share new discoveries together with your child and maintain your child safe by purchasing the correct design for your lifestyle by following the Perfect Stroller Buyers Guideline. 973704

  3. hello there and thank you for your info – I’ve definitely picked up anything new from right here.
    I did however expertise some technical issues using this
    website, as I experienced to reload the website a lot of times previous to I could
    get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your web hosting is OK?
    Not that I’m complaining, but slow loading instances times will very frequently affect
    your placement in google and can damage your high quality score if advertising and
    marketing with Adwords. Well I’m adding this RSS to my email and
    could look out for a lot more of your respective fascinating content.
    Make sure you update this again very soon.

  4. I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I come across
    a blog that’s both educative and interesting, and without a doubt,
    you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is something which too few people are speaking intelligently about.

    I am very happy I stumbled across this during my search for something regarding this.

  5. Hello! I realize this is somewhat off-topic
    but I had to ask. Does managing a well-established blog such as yours require a lot of work?
    I’m completely new to writing a blog however I do write in my diary every day.

    I’d like to start a blog so I will be able to share
    my own experience and feelings online. Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas or tips for
    brand new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button