Along with microplastic topic sessions in 2014 and 2017 PICES Annual Meeting, there has been a growing need to establish an expert group on microplastic pollution in the North Pacific region which is considered one of the ‘hot spots’ on the globe. While SG-MMP will focus on impacts of microplastics and their associated chemicals on marine environment and biota, linkages will be established with other efforts that describe socio-economic impacts of microplastic pollution.
The purpose of the proposed SG-MMP is to identify major microplastic issues in the North Pacific including marginal coastal seas and to identify knowledge gaps. The Study Group will establish a list of priority research needs in PICES member countries as well as world society by avoiding duplication of the other international and regional working groups and programs on microplastics. This will help to fill urgent knowledge gaps through further expert group involvement and activity in PICES. Input from regional and international bodies such as ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), GESAMP (Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection) and NOWPAP (Northwest Pacific Action Plan), will increase efficiencies and the scientific value of the SG-MMP outcome.
The establishment of SG-MMP is consistent with the FUTURE Science Plan component 3 (How do human activities affect coastal ecosystems and how are societies affected by changes in these ecosystems?), and contribute insight into the structure, function and resilience of ecosystems as in components 1 and 2. This will provide a critical evaluation of highly complex microplastics, clarify priority concerns in the North Pacific, and provide a platform to evaluate the relative importance of microplastics compared to other stressors.