CCAMLR has had success in tackling marine debris from local sources in the Southern Ocean; however it remains a persistent threat. Current understanding of the distribution and impacts of marine debris, particularly in pelagic areas, is limited. This is particularly concerning, as recent evidence suggests that microplastic concentrations in the Southern Ocean are higher than previously thought, and that they are from local and international sources.
Knowledge of the impacts of debris, particularly microplastics, in Antarctic ecosystems is understudied. Combatting the problem of microplastics in the Southern Ocean will require a collaborative effort between CCAMLR and other Antarctic Treaty System bodies, notably the CEP, introducing new mechanisms instruments to mitigate local sources of microplastics. These may be from both shipping activity and untreated greywater from Antarctic bases.
This paper outlines the significant gaps in knowledge of the spatial distribution of marine debris in the Antarctic relative to the rest of the world. ASOC proposes that offshore and sediment monitoring of marine debris is needed, particularly to investigate the trend of heightened microplastic concentrations in areas of high human activity in the Antarctic. Understanding of the ecological impacts of this debris is also limited, and avenues to assess these impacts on the population and community levels should be explored. CCAMLR has the capacity to detect and monitor the impacts of marine debris on populations, and could set an example for other management bodies seeking to reduce the impacts of this problem on marine species.