There is increasing concern about the impacts of plastics on marine ecosystems, with alarming estimates of the amount of plastic entering the sea each year. The low densities of people at very high latitudes generally lead to the perception that the polar oceans are relatively pristine. However, it has recently been suggested that the Gulf Stream is transporting large amounts of plastic into the Eastern Arctic ocean, and that sea ice in this region can be an important sink for macro and micro plastics. Less is known about the occurrence of plastics around Greenland, although seemingly high concentrations have been reported off the Eastern coast, resulting in frequent interactions with marine animals.
GLACE will offer a valuable opportunity to contrast differences in plastic loads between East and West Greenland, as well as to sample the largely unknown waters off North Greenland. During the expedition, plastic items will be sampled across the entire size spectrum, in surface waters, in the water column, on the beaches and in the sea-ice, while during navigation the amount of floating macro plastics will be evaluated by direct observations coupled with surveys of marine predators, such as seabirds and marine mammals, providing additional information about the interactions of plastics with the Arctic marine fauna, and allowing us to ascertain whether marine predators aggregate in areas with high plastic concentrations.