The Task Force on Remote Sensing of Marine Litter has as an overarching goal to coordinate the advancement of current and future remote sensing technologies and techniques that have potential to provide observations of plastic litter over all aquatic environments.


Scientific and Programmatic Background and Rationale

Anthropogenic solid litter and debris is an environmental problem that poses socioeconomic and health risks to humankind — plastics make up to 80 % of the litter in the aquatic environment!  Urgent action is needed to better understand sources, pathways, geo-location and temporal distribution of plastic litter to inform effective mitigation strategies. Remote sensing is anticipated to improve the information gaps about plastic litter, and interdisciplinary prospects of remote sensing technologies in monitoring plastic litter are foreseen (Maximenko et al., 2019; Garaba et al., 2018; Martínez-Vicente et al., 2019; Biermann et al., 2020).

The IOCCG Task Force on Remote Sensing of Marine Litter aims to coordinate the advancement of current and future remote sensing technologies and techniques that have potential to provide observations of plastic litter over all aquatic environments, in the frame of a wider International Marine Debris Observation System (Maximenko et al., 2019). Considering all remote sensing technologies (with a special focus on radiometric approaches), the Task Force aims to coordinate the development of traceable and transparent approaches for detecting, identifying, quantifying and tracking requirements of aggregated plastic litter patches (composed of all size classes). These requirements will be supported by four interlinked Core Topics listed below, which are essential for creating a scientific roadmap for remote sensing of plastic litter in all aquatic environments. The Task Force also aims to produce living guidelines on best practices in remote sensing of plastics.

More details on the Task Force are available here  as well as in the links for each of the four core topics below.

Terms of Reference (Core Topics)

1) Technologies

  • Definition of an internationally coordinated roadmap for remote sensing systems to support marine plastic litter detection.
  • Assessment of the capabilities of current remote sensing technologies to detect, quantify, characterise and track marine plastic litter.
  • Identification of the complementarity/synergy of EO with current and future platforms that could be used for marine plastic detection.
  • Identification of the experimental/modelling approaches needed to refine requirements for future marine litter missions.

2) Algorithms and Applications

  • Identification of best retrieval and state-of-the-art strategies for each of the available acquisition technologies.
  • Targeted algorithm development and action for critical aspects requiring novel approaches/solutions.
  • Identification of ancillary proxy datasets/variables that might be required for the various retrieval methods.
  • Definition of validation procedures and standards.
  • Consolidation of representative “use cases” for assessment of the algorithms and support to the design of simulators/modelling exercises.

3) Datasets

  • Establish  protocols for high quality data collection, handling, processing and storage.
  • Support and promote the gathering of relevant high quality in situ plastics data.
  • Quality control and quality assurance of essential metadata based.
  • Support and maintain a platform for collaboration, source for datasets-of-opportunity, forum for community.
  • Promote open-access to long-term archived high quality and easy to merge datasets as well as open-source processing software tools.

4) Interdisciplinary Aspects

  • Evaluate the range of alternative sensors and platforms for plastic detection and monitoring.
  • Further research of alternative approaches to traditional remote sensing techniques and data processing.
  • Support and further develop the new interdisciplinary plastics science.
  • Promote a network of information supporting plastics and society.
  • Support the generation and dissemination of remote sensing information contributing to prevention and mitigation plastic policies.

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