Plastics Derived From Derelict Fishing Gear in the Arctic: Looking at Sustainable Fisheries for a Strategy of Mitigation, Remediation and Prevention in Iceland and Alaska

Last modified: 
February 7, 2020 - 10:05am
Type: Thesis
Year of publication: 2020
Date published: 01/2020
Authors: Natalie Armstrong
Institution: Pitzer College
City: Claremont
Academic department: Environmental Analysis
Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Analysis

Marine plastics are not just a problem, they are a silent, sinister epidemic. Marine plastics are the largest economic and ecological threat to our marine ecosystems, particularly marine plastics derived from lost and or discarded fishing gear, which affects sensitive marine communities, the chemical composition of the ocean water, and the physical makeup of the seafloor. With 6.4 million tons of marine debris entering our oceans annually, a third of which is lost fishing gear, it is estimated that, by weight, in 2050 there will be an accumulation of more plastic than fish in the ocean (Heath, 2018; Wilcox, 2015).

Marine litter derived from plastic fishing gear, primarily passive gear, when lost in the ocean causes a series of consequences to the marine ecosystem, that of which increases when there are high concentrations of fishing activity in the geographic area. Arctic countries have some of the most abundant fisheries, that of which is projected to increase due to anthropogenic climate change. In the context of climate change affecting the Arctic ecosystem, in this thesis, we will review the consequences of plastics derived from fishing gear for the Arctic marine ecosystem, estimate the potential influx of derelict gear plastics originating from data obtained in Alaska and Iceland, and then confidently present effective forms of remediation, prevention, and mitigation strategized from models of sustainable fisheries to resolve the ramifications of lost and or discarded gear in Arctic communities.

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