14 Mar 2019 - A new set of publicly-available guidelines for monitoring plastic in the oceans is expected to help harmonize how the scale of the issue is assessed.
The guidelines have been published by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), a body that advises the United Nations system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection. They cover what to sample, how to sample it and how to record and assess plastics in the oceans and on the shoreline, including establishing baseline surveys.
They also include common definitions for categories of marine litter and plastics and provide examples of size and shape.
Sections cover citizen science programs and there are detailed chapters on monitoring sea surface floating plastic and plastic on the seafloor.
The guidelines are a response to the hitherto lack of an internationally agreed methodology to report on the distribution and abundance of marine plastic litter and microplastics and directly contribute to the U.N. SDG Goal 14 on the oceans. Specifically, the guidelines are a response to target 14.1: By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including plastic debris and nutrient pollution.
On March 3, the United Nations led celebrations for the U.N. World Wildlife Day with a theme this year of: Life below water: for people and planet. Over three billion people depend on these resources for their livelihoods globally. The market value of marine and coastal resources and related industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year, about five percent of global GDP.
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The full set of guidelines is available to download free-of-charge from the GESAMP website here.