Andrea Sneekes of Wageningen Marine Research joined the 31st annual meeting of SETAC Europe (3-6 May, 2021) on behalf of QUASIMEME. She presented the past, present and future of QUASIMEME's proficiency testing in the marine environment during a very interesting session on Creating a Sustainable Future for the Marine Environment (6.01).
Marine ecosystems provide a range of invaluable services to humans. Consequently, actions and policies to protect marine environment are of paramount importance. Such polices are based on research, monitoring and assessment carried out in an international context. The information base underpinning these activities must be reliable for environmental management to be effective. In the past, monitoring and assessment was dominated by the investigation of contamination of the marine environment by chemicals and radioactive substances. Nowadays, an integrated approach is taken that takes pressures from different types of human activities and different issues into consideration. Monitoring and assessment of contaminants remains an important issue. Society is dynamic, “old" chemicals are phased out, innovations in materials, processes and changes in use give rise to new classes of compounds that can harm ecosystems and may require regulation.
In addition, new analytical methodologies are developed enabling us to monitor the environment in a different manner, non-target screening being an example. Such dynamics pose challenges that marine monitoring needs to address. Between 1980 and 1989, international collaboration in a series of interlaboratory studies conducted under auspices of ICES and through international assessments of the environmental quality of the North Sea and Baltic Sea revealed time and again that laboratory results were poorly comparable and that the monitoring programs needed to be improved. The North Sea task Force was created to increase scientific knowledge and to make inter alia a monitoring master plan for the North Sea. The Quasimeme proficiency testing scheme was started as a spin-off of the NSTF in 1989 funded by the EU.
It was designed as an holistic quality assurance programme for marine environmental monitoring information in Europe. Quasimeme has developed into a European network that supports globally the large majority of measurands in marine environmental programmes for both monitoring and research purposes. Recent examples of new interlaboratory studies include ocean acidification, PFOS and microplastics. Information on the operation of the Quasimeme network will be provided in relation to the path the programme takes to respond to the challenges that monitoring of the contamination of the marine environment faces with a view to pursue a high level of support to the quality of marine information in this area.