Journal article Open Access

Abundance and types of plastic pollution in surface waters in the eastern Arctic (Inuit Nunangat) and the case for reconciliation science

Liboiron, Max; Zahara, Alex; Hawkins, Kaitlyn; Crespo, Christina; de Moura Neves, Bárbara; Wareham-Hayes, Vonda; Edinger, Evan; Muise, Charlotte; Walzak, Mary Jane; Sarazen, Rebecca; Chidley, Jillian; Mills, Carley; Watwood, Lauren; Arif, Hridisha; Earles, Elise; Pijogge, Liz; Shirley, Jamal; Jacobs, Jesse; McCarney, Paul; Charron, Louis

Plastics are not only an environmental concern but also an issue of justice in the Arctic, particularly in Inuit Nunangat (Inuit homelands), as plastics and other contaminants that originate in the south accumulate in the north and have implications for Inuit sovereignty and wellness. This collaborative study finds an average of 0.018 plastics/m2 in surface waters in two sites in the eastern Arctic (Tasiujarjuaq in Nunavut near Iqaluit and southwest Greenland offshore from Qaqortoq and Narsaq). A comparison with other studies shows this abundance of plastics is lesser than abundances reported further north in the Arctic, but greater than adjacent waters further south. However, within and across study areas at similar latitudes, there does not appear to be a significant difference in plastic abundance. Some characteristics of recovered plastics such as morphology and colour support local origins, while others support long range transport. Research moving forward should consider relative scales in spatial trends of plastic abundance. The discussion concludes by reflecting on the methods and findings in terms of their role in Inuit governance and research relationships, including elements of research personnel, permitting, categorization, measurement, and reporting findings. Our goal is to provide insights of where we, as scientists, may choose to intentionally move our scientific work towards reconciliation while we produce knowledge about environmental pollution in Inuit Nunangat and the Arctic broadly.

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