New guidelines for monitoring plastics

marine litter guidelines The guidelines include common definitions for categories of marine litter and plastics, examples of size and shape, how to design monitoring and assessment programmes, sampling and surveys. Credit: GESAMP

New ‘Guidelines for the Monitoring and Assessment of Plastics Litter in the Ocean’ aims to help harmonise how scientists and others assess the scale of the marine plastic litter problem.

The guidelines, which also address microplastics, 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 include recommendations, advice and practical guidance, for establishing programmes to monitor and assess the distribution and abundance of plastic litter in the ocean.

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, the guidelines include common definitions for categories of marine litter and plastics, examples of size and shape, how to design monitoring and assessment programmes, sampling and surveys.

Sections cover citizen science programmes - which involve members of the public in marine litter surveying and research. 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 have been produced to directly contribute to the UN SDG Goal 14 on the oceans.

By Rebecca Jeffrey

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