In September Carl Ballantine from Akvaplan-niva joined a Svalbard cruise with Hurtigruten as part of the extension citizen science project of MALINOR, funded by the Research Council of Norway. The aim of the cruise was to assist tourists in mapping marine litter using an app specially designed for this purpose. He reports that the Hurtigruten personnel was very welcoming and helpful and that the tourists had a positive attitude to assist in the litter mapping. Some localities had previously been cleaned for litter by the Clean Up Svalbard project. He and the tourists found and mapped information about litter on 11 of the shore landings.Carl also held three lectures for the tourists whilst on board, one on the application “Open Litter Map” and the others on marine litter in general and possible solutions to the marine litter problem.
This citizen science and environmental education program is the project “Arctic Tourism in the Barents Sea” (ArcToMaL) which is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment. The partners in the project are the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), Murmansk Marine Biological Institute (MMBI) and Russian Arctic National Park (RANP).
The overall aim of the project is to increase awareness and responsibility of Arctic tourists, and to gather new knowledge about marine litter pollution in the Barents Sea and the High Arctic through citizen science, participation, cooperation and outreach. ArcToMaL complements MALINOR in developing a methodology making it feasible to have tourists assist in collecting data on marine litter in the Arctic. Whilst on cruise the tourists can take photos and note GPS coordinates of the litter that they can see along the shore of Arctic islands of Svalbard and Franz Josef Land archipelagos. This information will be sent to scientist for further processing and analysis. MMBI, RANP and AECO are involved in educating tourists on environmental issues and will also facilitate the distribution of the information. AECO members (40 expedition ships and 10 yachts) regularly contribute with observation to scientific studies and are therefore well trained in educating tourists in assisting scientists in data collection, commonly labelled as “citizens science”.