Guidelines for the monitoring and assessment of plastic litter in the ocean


( The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) has been involved in the issue of marine plastic litter and microplastics for over a decade. Initially interest was focussed on microplastics.

The principle purpose of this report is to provide recommendations, advice and practical guidance, for establishing programmes to monitor and assess the distribution and abundance of plastic litter, also referred to as plastic debris, in the ocean. It is a product of the GESAMP Working Group (WG40) on ‘Sources, fate and effects of plastics and microplastics in the marine environment, co-led by the Intergovernmental Commission on Oceanography (IOC-UNESCO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report was prepared by 19 independent experts from 14 countries, with financial support from a number of agencies and national governments (Annex I). The term ‘plastic litter’ is used throughout, but is synonymous with ‘plastic debris’. In some cases the report refers to monitoring strategies and sampling protocols that have been designed for the monitoring of all forms of marine litter (i.e. processed wood, metal, textiles, glass, munitions, and plastics).

The main audience of the report is intended to be national, inter-governmental and international organisations with responsibilities for managing the social, economic and ecological consequences of land- and sea-based human-activities on the marine environment. The decision to produce these Guidelines reflects the lack of an internationally agreed methodology to report on the distribution and abundance of marine plastic litter and microplastics, a topic that is attracting increasing concern. Use of a harmonized system will benefit the development of monitoring programmes.

To download the guidance paper, click on below image:


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