Last week guides and passengers of an Oceanwide Expeditions voyage to the Arctic cleaned plastic off a Svalbard beach in memory of Sarah Auffret, an environmental agent for the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) who died in Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 on March 10.
The guides felt this was a good way to honor Auffret, who led the UN Environment's Clean Seas campaign.
Auffret's work with Clean Seas, which since 2017 has fought against marine plastic pollution, involved not only AECO but also IAATO, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. Greatly aiding the reduction of single-use plastics on expedition vessels, Clean Seas also educates tour operators and passengers about the consequences of marine litter.
In fact, Auffret was traveling to the UN Environment Assembly to present IAATO and AECO's work on a Clean Seas project when the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in which she was flying crashed six minutes after takeoff, leaving no survivors.
The Svalbard beach cleanup, then, seemed an ideal way to commemorate Auffret. Such cleanups are a common activity of polar tour operators like Oceanwide Expeditions, and are further promoted by such initiatives as Clean Up Svalbard, launched by the local Norwegian governor's office.