Newly published GESAMP report on Microplastics
The GESAMP advisory body on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection published the second part of its global assessment on microplastics. It confirmed that microplastic contamination has been recorded in tens of thousands of organisms and more than 100 species. GESAMP consists of experts nominated by nine United Nations Sponsoring Agencies, including UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.
The comprehensive report on 'Sources, Fate and Effects of Microplastics in the Marine Environment: Part 2 of a Global Assessment' expands on an earlier study published in 2015. It investigates in greater length the sources and the potential ecological impacts of microplastics, and includes recommendations for further work on the issue.
The report provides an update as well as further assessment of the sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment, carried out by GESAMP’s Working Group 40 (WG40). The distribution of microplastics in the five main ocean compartments (sea surface, water column, shoreline, seabed and biota) are described, together with the transport mechanisms that regulate the flux of microplastic between compartments. Among the key outputs of this second report in the global assessment series is a report of regional ‘hot-spots’ of microplastic sources, distribution and accumulation zones.
The issue of marine plastic litter was raised during the inaugural meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in June 2014, which adopted Resolution 1/6 on ‘Marine plastic debris and microplastics’ (Annex I). The resolution welcomed the work being undertaken by GESAMP on microplastics and requested the Executive Director of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) to carry out a study on marine plastics and microplastics based on a combination of existing and new studies, including those coming out of GESAMP’s WG40.
Following up on the UNEP’s resolution, GESAMP revised its original terms of reference to ensure a more effective contribution to the ongoing microplastic research initiatives.
To the article on unesco.org