Plastics in the Ocean - Sources and distribution Part II


  • 13:00 Marine litter in arctic and northern Norway
    Authors: Lene Buhl-Mortensen ( Institute of Marine Research ); Bjørn Einar Grøsvik ( Institute of Marine Research ); Pål Buhl-Mortensen ( Institute of Marine Research ); Elena Eriksen ( Institute of Marine Research )

    The Norwegian economic zone is very large (2.1 Mkm2) and most of it is deep sea (> 200m). It includes a shelf with inserted canyons and deep arctic seas (250-4000 meter, The Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea). The coastline is one of the longest in the world indented with very deep and long fjords. The number of people and sectors that contributes with litter to the system is small. Main anthropogenic activities are: fishing industry (including aquaculture), oil industry and shipping.

    The main goal of this study is to provide an overview of the composition and distribution of marine litter in the northern seas. Based on this to estimate the likelihood of encountering garbage in different parts of the marine ecosystems. A comparison is made with abundance of litter in other seas, and mitigations are suggested based on the main components of the garbage.

    For the study we have compiled results from three main sources:
    1. the joint Norwegian–Russian ecosystem monitoring surveys (2010 -2016)
    includes 2265 pelagic trawls, 1860 bottom trawls, surface registrations.
    2. the Mareano seafloor mapping (2006-2017) that has conducted 1879 seafloor video transects (each 700 m long).
    3. OSPAR beach litter surveys in the period 2011-17 including seven beaches and in total 51 records.

    The vast dataset provides an overview of litter covering marine ecosystems from ocean surface to bottom, from coast to open ocean, in a wide set of marine landscapes.

    Wood dominated the floating marine debris of which plastic constituted 34.6 ± 22.3%. At 60 meters, litter was recorded in 13% of the pelagic trawls, and plastic contributed with 7.9% in weight. From the seabed 33.5% of the bottom trawls brought back litter with a contribution in weight from plastic of 11.2%, while 27% of the video records documented litter, and fishing gear was the most frequent litter. From the seven beaches 186,168 litter items was recorded with a mean of 3,650 items/100 m of which 95% was plastic.

    The amount of marine litter depends to a large extent on local activities and it accumulates in depressions on the seafloor. In general, the amount increases towards the coast. The average amount of litter in coastal waters is 200 kilos/km2. The litter densities are equal or slightly higher than reported from European waters and the composition at different depths and on beaches is indicative of main sources and transport routs.

  • 13:15 Occurrence and Fate of Microplastics in Arctic Fjords
    Authors: Madeleine Purver ( University Centre of the Westfjords and NIVA ); Pernilla Carlsson ( University Centre of the Westfjords and NIVA )

    There is more widely information available of the economic consequences of marine litter, where plastics make up to 80% of this category. For example, the UN reports that fisheries, aquaculture companies and marine tourism are suffering a cost of $8 billion a year due to marine litter (UNEP, 2015). The impact and cost of microplastics are yet unknown, although public awareness, as well as financial awareness, are arising. 

    The main aim of this project is to gain more understanding of microplastic pollution fate and occurrence in Arctic fjords, including investigations whether atmospheric long-range transport plays an important role in the transport of microplastics to the Arctic. Isfjorden, Svalbard was chosen as the main sampling area since it contains fjord arms with different features although all fjords are within a reasonable distance. Samples were collected in four of the fjords, two with little traffic and visitors (Ekmanfjorden and Dicksonfjorden) and two fjords containing settlements (Grønfjorden; Russian settlement Barentsburg and Adventfjorden; Norwegian settlement Longyearbyen). Samples were taken from the mouth of the fjord to catch riverine and glacial inputs as well as the impact from the local settlements when present. The samples were collected using a manta net, and also a high-capacity pump system with metal filters.

    The samples will be analysed near-infrared (n-IR) spectrometry to confirm the composition of any microplastic particles detected by visual analysis.

    Since microplastics have been found in the ‘pristine’ Arctic, it illustrates how contaminants can impact remote locations and not just highly populated areas. Next, this global problem will need to be addressed at the source; politically, economically and environmentally.

  • 13:30 Microplastics prevail at all ocean depths of the HAUSGARTEN observatory (Arctic)
    Authors: Mine B. Tekman ( Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung ); Gunnar Gerdts ( Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung ); Claudia Lorenz ( Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung ); Sebastian Primpke ( Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung ); Christiane Hasemann ( Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung ); Melanie Bergmann ( Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung )

    Although recent research indicates that microplastic (MP) has spread to all marine ecosystem compartments from the sea surface to the deep seafloor, our understanding of transport pathways is still limited. Currently, our knowledge of MP concentrations throughout the water column is largely based on model runs. To fill this gap, we deployed in-situ pumps at four different depths (sea surface, ~300m, ~1000m, near seafloor) at five stations of the HAUSGARTEN observatory (west of Svalbard); furthermore, sediment cores were sampled at these stations with a video-guided multiple corer to investigate accumulation mechanisms of the MPs on the deep seafloor. The pumps filtered 218–560 litres of seawater during each deployment with 32 µm mesh metal filters. Our analyses of the water column samples using µFTIR spectroscopy resulted in 0–1,287 MP m-3, comprising 15 different polymer types. Rubber and polyamide accounted for the largest proportion (67%). The highest concentration was detected at the sea surface of the northernmost station, which is located in the marginal ice zone. The surface waters showed the highest MP concentrations with a decrease towards the seafloor. A positive correlation between MP concentrations throughout the water column and total particulate matter concentrations from seston samples suggests that MP particles might generally be transported along with the vertical flux of organic matter. Our analyses of the sediment samples showed 1,200 - 33,000-fold higher levels of MP compared to the water column which confirms earlier studies about the deep seafloor being a major sink for MPs. 11 different polymer types were identified in the sediment samples. Chlorinated polyethylene accounted for the largest proportion (31%), followed by nitrile rubber (18%) and polypropylene (17%). Significant differences in the polymer composition of sediment and water column suggests complex accumulation mechanisms of the MPs on the deep seafloor at the Fram Strait. Our results will be discussed in the context of prevailing water masses and sea ice coverage. Still, our preliminary results highlight that noticeable amounts of MP are present throughout the water column, Earth’s largest biome, which has been largely neglected in previous estimates of plastic in the world’s oceans.

  • 13:45 The Arctic Marine Litter Project - Knowing the sources to work on solutions
    Authors: Wouter Jan Strietman ( Wageningen Economic Research ); Jannike Falk-Andersson ( SALT Lofoten ); Eelco Leemans ( Leemans Maritime Consultancy )

    Although lying at the outer edge of Europe, the Arctic is not isolated and certainly not unaffected by human influence. High levels of plastic are found in the Arctic, where it not only poses a safety hazard to shipping and a threat to wildlife but also to local communities and tourists who are unwittingly exposed to this waste.


    In order to tackle this problem, the first steps have been taken at the local and international level. Examples of such initiatives are beach clean-ups, monitoring and research, policy and industry initiatives. To be able to take effective action, however, information is needed on the exact origin and stakeholders, the underlying reasons why litter is ending up in the sea and what can be done to prevent this. This detailed information has previously been unavailable, preventing a more targeted approach.


    The Arctic Marine Litter Project was setup in 2017 by Wageningen Economic Research, Leemans Maritime Consultancy (The Netherlands) and SALT Lofoten (Norway) in collaboration with local organisations, researchers, policymakers and industry representatives, in order to bridge the existing knowledge gap. The knowledge gained through the project aims at providing input into ongoing initiatives on marine litter in the Arctic and initiating new ones where needed and in this way supporting efforts to reduce marine litter in the Arctic.


    During 2017 and 2018, the first steps in a cyclical process to gain knowledge and work on solutions have been taken. By applying detailed beach litter analysis methods such as the ‘Deep dive’ methodology (developed by SALT) and the fishing net protocol (developed by Wageningen Economic Research), crucial insight has been gained for the first time into the origin, the main stakeholders and the underlying behaviour and processes that have resulted in litter ending up on the beaches of Svalbard. This new information will be shared at the Arctic Frontiers 2019 conference. Based on these first steps, the main stakeholders will be engaged with in 2019 as part of the process to take action and prevent marine litter from ending up in the Arctic.


    The first focus in the project has been Jan Mayen and Svalbard, but the ambition is to widen the geographic scope of the project to other areas as the approach developed in this project can be applied throughout the Arctic and other areas worldwide to develop targeted approaches tackling marine litter.

  • 14:00 Simulated pathways of microplastics into the Arctic Ocean
    Authors: Knut-Frode Dagestad ( MET Norway ); Göran Broström ( University of Gothenburg ); Jon Albretsen ( Norwegian Institute of Marine Research ); Trond Kristiansen ( NIVA )

    We have simulated the drift of plastic particles into the Arctic Ocean from selected source locations in the North Atlantic and the North Sea. Simulations are run over several years, using a state-of-the-art ocean drift model forced by appropriate ocean models, and including wind forcing for accurate calculation of drift in the upper few meters of the ocean. Sensitivity studies are performed to quantify the importance of this wind-forcing.

    Simulations are also performed with two different trajectory models (OpenDrift and PyLadim) to investigate the soundness and sensitivity of the results with respect to the models used.

    We analyse the spatial distribution of microplastics, and calculate residence times. We find that there is a significant transport of plastic particles into the Barents Sea with beaching on Novala Zemlja and Svalbard. Contrasting an earlier study we find that plastic particles leave Barents Sea on a relatively fast time scale and that Barents Sea may not be considered as the fifth large garbage patch in the world oceans.

  • 14:15 Automated and continuous sampling of microplastic in the Arctic
    Authors: Bert van Bavel ( NIVA ); Pernilla Carlsson ( Research Director ); Amy Lusher ( NIVA ); Andrew King ( NIVA ); Kai Sørensen ( NIVA ); Pierre Jaccard ( NIVA )

    Ocean plastics pollution is ubiquitous and is causing our society losses in terms of damaged ecosystems and consequently affecting not only the fishing and aquaculture industries but also recreation and tourism. Debris or litter including macro and micro plastics have been identified as a global threat to exceed our planets boundaries. Most plastics are stable under most environmental conditions and this property in combination with unwillingness or inability to manage or regulate the end-of-life of plastic has resulted in marine plastics and micro plastics becoming a global threat including to the Arctic. Plastic waste is a trans- boundary, complex, social, economic and environmental problem with no easy solutions. It is clear that macro and micro plastics have entered the Arctic as shown in a number of recent publications. Plastics have for example been found in Northern Fulmars and surface water or sea bed. However, data from the Arctic is fragmented and deeper knowledge of plastic contamination is still limited.


    Several techniques are currently in use for sampling micro plastics from the water column and sediments. Surface trawls currently implemented are limited to mesh sizes of around 300 μm although knowledge is emerging that the lower μm ranges are highly relevant. Thus there is a large need to develop new micro litter sampling equipment to be able to sample smaller particle seize at the surface and in the water column. To achieve microplastic detection especially in remote areas requires relatively large seawater volumes to be sampled. Observations in seawater have shown that a larger number of particles are detected when smaller mesh sizes are used, targeting smaller particle sizes. Surface trawls have the disadvantage of uncertainty of the water volume sampled, giving rise to more qualitative data, particularly when sampling in rough seas.


    A new prototype microplastic sampler was tested at to work under Arctic field conditions. Several designs were evaluated to be incorporated in existing ferry box systems. The design is based on a large volume three stage (50µm, 300 µm, 500µm) microplastic sampler developed in the EU project Clean Sea. Preliminary data shows good performance of the system under Arctic conditions. The filters were analysed both optical and by µFTIR under laboratory conditions. The three-stage sampling tool design enables the sampling of high large volumes improving the limit of detection (LOD and accurately measured volume of seawater (improving the accuracy of concentration reporting).

Science Science

Wednesday 23rd January 2019

13:00 - 14:30

Clarion Hotel The Edge - Margarinfabrikken 1

Add to Calendar 2019-01-23 13:00 2019-01-23 14:30 Europe/Oslo Plastics in the Ocean - Sources and distribution Part II Clarion Hotel The Edge - Margarinfabrikken 1

This page uses cookies, read more about it here »