Plastic makes up the largest quantity of the non-biodegradable material on earth and is a huge environmental concern. Because of its longevity, it can travel over huge distances from its origin, and accumulate in remote places such as the Poles, a crucial area for the balance of our planet's sustainable future. Polarquest2018 will carry out the first expedition ever to assess the presence and distribution of microplastic in the Arctic waters above 78 of latitude, in the Svalbard archipelago.
Microplastics (plastic smaller than 5 millimeters) is an emerging pollutant threatening species at the base of our food chain, from zooplankton up to fish and marine mammals. It affects their feeding behavior and moves from the digestive tract into the bloodstream. Its presence has been reported as far as the Arctic Ocean. In spite of this threat, there are no regulations on microplastics, an urgent need to assess its pollution and lack of awareness worldwide of the gravity of the threat.
Polarquest explorers and researchers will sail to the Svalbard archipelago in summer 2018 on Nanuq, a 60-foot sailboat designed to sail in polar regions, to carry out the first campaign to assess Micro and nanoplastic contents above 78 degrees latitude, using a Mantanet, drones and other innovative tools. We will share our polar adventure with the citizens of the world through a pervasive communication campaign bringing together citizens and scientists and make them collaborate in new ways.
Our findings will contribute to assess the risk of the potential impact of decreasing sea ice, increasing shipping and commercial activity in the Arctic. Creating awareness among citizens of the threat of microplastic in the oceans, through our communication and the direct involvement in the sampling and analysis of the coastal waters of people near their homes is a powerful way for making make the Global Goals for sustainable development a reality.