Ocean Voyages Institute has set a new record with the largest at sea clean-up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by removing 103 tonnes of fishing nets and consumer plastics – more than doubling its own results from last year.
The marine conservation nonprofit’s marine plastic recovery vessel, S/V KWAI, docked at the port of Honolulu on 23 June, after a 48-day expedition, from the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, more commonly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The ocean clean-up exceeded last year’s capture of 100 tonnes of consumer plastics and derelict “ghost” nets.
The Pacific Gyre, located halfway between Hawaii and California, is the largest area with the most plastic, of the five major open ocean plastic accumulation regions, or Gyres, in the world’s oceans.
The 48-day at sea clean-up mission began at the Hawaiian port of Hilo on 4 May 4, after a three-week self-imposed quarantine period to ensure the health of crew members and safety of the mission, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The KWAI’s multinational crew collected marine plastic pollution with the help of GPS satellite trackers that Ocean Voyages Institute designed with engineer Andy Sybrandy, of Pacific Gyre, Inc. These beacons are placed on nets by volunteer yachts and ships. Drones, as well as lookouts up the mast, enable the ship’s crew to hone in on the debris.
During the past year, Ocean Voyages Institute recruited yachts and ships to attach the satellite trackers to the ghost nets they encountered. These bowling ball-sized trackers, once activated, signal the nets’ locations in real time. This data enables the Institute to find and retrieve the trackers and ghost nets. As the ocean tends to sort debris, the tagged nets, have led the voyage to areas of heavy debris distribution, so that many additional nets and other items can be removed..
The KWAI crew recovered the litter, placed it in industrial bags, and stored it in the ship’s cargo hold for proper recycling and repurposing at the end of the voyage.
Mary Crowley, founder and executive director of Ocean Voyages Institute, said: “In these challenging times, we are continuing to help restore the health of our ocean, which influences our own health and the health of the planet.”
“The oceans can’t wait for these nets and debris to break down into microplastics which impair the ocean’s ability to store carbon and toxify the fragile ocean food web.”
The GPS satellite trackers used by Ocean Voyages Institute since 2018 are proving Mary Crowley’s theory that one tracker can lead to many nets. The ocean frequently sorts debris so that a tagged fishing net can lead to other nets and a density of debris within a 15 mile radius.
Lifelong sailor, Mary Crowley, added: “We are utilising proven nautical equipment to effectively clean-up the oceans while innovating with new technologies. Our solutions are scalable.
“There is no doubt in my mind that our work is making the oceans healthier for the planet and safer for marine wildlife, as these nets will never again entangle or harm a whale, dolphin, turtle or reefs.”
Next year, Ocean Voyages Institute are looking to have three vessels operating in the North Pacific Gyre for three months all bringing in large cargos of debris. The marine conservation nonprofit also aims to expand to other parts of the world needing efficient clean-up technologies.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com