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Cleaning the Arctic, or Sørkapp Marine Litter Cleanup

We are proud to announce that we have received 330,000 NOK from Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund for the realization of a project entitled Sørkapp Marine Litter Cleanup (No 18/70).

Marine litter is human-created waste that has deliberately or accidentally been released in a sea or ocean. It can be blown by the wind or follow the flow of ocean currents over significant distances, and often accumulates on coastlines, at which point it turns into beach litter.

© Bo Eide (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Beach litter, which is already a common sight along the coast of Europe and both Americas, is quickly becoming a serious problem also along the shorelines of the Arctic, where it degrades the beauty of the natural environment and has a negative impact on wildlife. This is true even in protected areas with limited human activity, such as Sør-Spitsbergen National Park in Svalbard.

© Ingrid Taylar (CC BY 2.0)

The aim of our project is to contribute to local clean-up initiatives by targeting a seldom visited 23-kilometre-long stretch of the coast within Sør-Spitsbergen National Park. In 2019, over three summer weeks, we will manually remove all beach litter accumulated in the area, segregate it (into plastic, fishing nets and ropes, rubber, glass, metal, and hazardous waste), bag it and have it transported to Longyearbyen (the capital of Svalbard), where it will be properly disposed of.

Top map: forScience Foundation
Bottom map: TopoSvalbard

This will be done in a very methodical way and a report containing information on the types, amount, distribution, and—whenever possible—the origin of the collected litter will be published on the forScience website soon afterwards.

But wait, there’s more!

As very little is known about the rate of marine debris accumulation along the west coast of Sørkappland, which constitutes the first potential accumulation zone for marine debris carried northwards by the West Spitsbergen Current and westwards by the East Spitsbergen Current, we are planning to return a year later (for another three-week period) to investigate the exact same stretch of the coast and estimate the rate of debris accumulation. The results, which are bound to prove useful for environmental management and scientific research, will be made available in another report, so watch this space!