Recently, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) secured substantial funding for its campaign against single-use plastic in the Arctic and on member vessels. Now, the Arctic expedition cruise industry steps up efforts to combat marine plastic pollution as AECO hires seasoned polar tourism professional Sarah Auffret as AECO’s new environmental agent.

Plastic pollution is considered to be one of the most pressing environmental problems worldwide, including in the Arctic. AECO has now decided to join the UN Clean Seas campaign, increase the efforts of beach cleanups, and urge AECO members to abdicate single-use plastic goods. Credit: Michael Wenger
Plastic pollution is considered to be one of the most pressing environmental problems worldwide, including in the Arctic. AECO has now decided to join the UN Clean Seas campaign, increase the efforts of beach cleanups, and urge AECO members to abdicate single-use plastic goods. Credit: Michael Wenger

The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) has hired an environmental agent who will be to lead AECO’s efforts drastically cut back on single-use plastics on Arctic expedition cruise vessels, as well as enhance cruise passengers' involvement in regular beach cleanups. Sarah Auffret, who has a background as expedition leader on cruises in Svalbard, East Greenland and the Antarctic Peninsula and as base leader of Port Lockroy, was selected from a pool of highly qualified candidates. Auffret’s extensive experience from polar tourism will come in handy in her new role as environmental agent, where she will lead the work to collect, systematize and share best practices to help reduce plastics consumption on expedition cruise ships.  According to Frigg Jørgensen, executive director of AECO, the expedition cruise industry can make a big contribution in the fight to combat marine plastic litter. “Marine litter is one of the biggest environmental challenges of our time. An opportunity for the Arctic expedition cruise industry to involve presented itself when AECO received an invitation from Erik Solheim, UN Environment Executive Director, to join the Clean Seas Campaign. AECO highly supports UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign and will be taking actions to beat plastic pollution. Now, our commitment has been given additional momentum by the fact that we have been able to secure external funding to further develop our Clean Seas initiatives,” says Jørgensen.

The newly appointed Environmental agent Sarah Auffret has a long history with the Arctic as expedition leader. In her position, she will coordinate the AECO efforts to significantly reduce plastic litter on vessels and on beaches. Credit: AECO
The newly appointed Environmental agent Sarah Auffret has a long history with the Arctic as expedition leader. In her position, she will coordinate the AECO efforts to significantly reduce plastic litter on vessels and on beaches. Credit: AECO

The new project position has been made possible by funding from the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund and the Norwegian Environmental Directorate, who have granted a total of NOK 2.4 million to AECO’s clean seas efforts. In addition to working on preventive measures, the environmental agent will help coordinate beach cleanups carried out by expedition cruise passengers and crew. Auffret, who initiated a coastal cleanup movement in Naruto, Japan in 2010 and has a long-standing passion for environmental issues, looks forward to spearheading AECO’s Clean Seas efforts. “As Arctic tourism grows, I strongly feel we have the opportunity, duty and responsibility to examine, study and implement the best possible practices to ensure we have the lowest possible impact on the environment and communities we visit. I was excited to hear about the environmental agent position and I am delighted to take on this important job,” says Auffret. She will work from Tromsø but will also have work periods in Svalbard.

AECO and its members have been cleaning up beaches in the Svalbard archipelago for many years now. Despite the efforts however, the ocean currents bring thousands of tons of plastic to the fragile Arctic marine environment. Reducing plastic on vessels will be a big step into the right direction. Credit: Sysselmannen Svalbard
AECO and its members have been cleaning up beaches in the Svalbard archipelago for many years now. Despite the efforts however, the ocean currents bring thousands of tons of plastic to the fragile Arctic marine environment. Reducing plastic on vessels will be a big step into the right direction. Credit: Sysselmannen Svalbard

Source: AECO