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Environmentalists Pull 40 Tons of Fishing Nets in Pacific Ocean Cleanup

The group is among a handful of nonprofits working to collect plastic trash from the open ocean, an endeavor that can be dangerous, time consuming and expensive

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fishing nets
FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2018 photo, a ship tows The Ocean Cleanup's buoyant trash-collecting device toward the Golden Gate Bridge en route to the Pacific Ocean. The floating device is designed to catch plastic waste. VOA

In a mission to clean up trash floating in the ocean, environmentalists pulled 40 tons (36 metric tons) of abandoned fishing nets this month from an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Mariners on a 140-foot (43-meter) cargo sailboat outfitted with a crane voyaged from Hawaii to the heart of the Pacific Ocean, where they retrieved the haul of mostly plastic fishing nets as part of an effort to rid the waters of the nets that entangle whales, turtles and fish and damage coral reefs.

Crew includes volunteers

The volunteers with the California-based nonprofit Ocean Voyages Institute fished out the derelict nets from a marine gyre location where ocean currents converge between Hawaii and California during their 25-day expedition, the group’s founder, Mary Crowley, announced Friday.

The group is among a handful of nonprofits working to collect plastic trash from the open ocean, an endeavor that can be dangerous, time consuming and expensive. “Our success should herald the way for us to do larger clean ups and to inspire clean ups all throughout the Pacific Ocean and throughout the world. It’s not something that we need to wait to do,” Crowley said.

fishing nets
It is estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 metric tons of fishing gear is abandoned or lost during storms each year in the oceans, said Nick Mallos. Wikimedia Commons

Nets hold 2 tons of trash

The cargo ship returned June 18 to Honolulu, where 2 tons (1.8 metric tons) of plastic trash were separated from the haul of fishing nets and donated to local artists to transform it into artwork to educate people about ocean plastic pollution. The rest of the refuse was turned over to a zero emissions energy plant that will incinerate it and turn it into energy, she said.

A year before they went to pick up the nets, the Sausalito, California-based group gave sailors going from California to Hawaii buoyant GPS trackers the size of bowling balls to attach to the nets they encountered during their voyage so they could be tracked.

The group then sailed to collect the nets entangled with plastic chairs, bottles and other trash in an effort that cost $300,000. The group plans to deploy dozens more GPS trackers and next year embark on a three-month trash collection expedition, Crowley said.

It is estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 metric tons of fishing gear is abandoned or lost during storms each year in the oceans, said Nick Mallos, Director of the Trash Free Seas Program at Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group.

fishing nets, pacific ocean
8 million metric tons of plastic waste flow annually into the ocean from beaches, rivers and creeks. Wikimedia Commons

Others groups join the cause

Another 9 million tons (8 million metric tons) of plastic waste, including plastic bottles, bags, toys and other items, flow annually into the ocean from beaches, rivers and creeks, according to experts.

The Ocean Voyages Institute is one of dozens of groups around the world trying to tackle the problem. Most focus on cleaning up beaches, ridding shores of abandoned fishing nets, traps and other gear and pushing for a reduction on single-use plastic containers.

ALSO READ: Increasing Elephant Population in Botswana Becomes a Major Reason for Human-Wildlife Conflict

Collecting the trash already in the gyres is also the goal of The Ocean Cleanup project, which was started by Dutch innovator Boyan Slat and last year first deployed a trash collection device to corral plastic litter floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The group has raised millions of dollars from donors around the world, including San Francisco billionaire Marc Benioff. The buoyant, 2,000-foot (600-meter) long boom was floating 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from Hawaii’s coast when it broke apart under constant wind. After being repaired, it was re-deployed last week. (VOA)

Next Story

Trash-Collecting Device Breaks Apart In The Pacific Ocean

The plastic barrier with a tapered 3-meter-deep (10-foot-deep) screen is intended to act like a coastline

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Trash, Ocean
A ship tows The Ocean Cleanup's first buoyant trash-collecting device toward the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco en route to the Pacific Ocean, Sept. 8, 2018. VOA

A trash collection device deployed to corral plastic litter floating in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii has broken apart and will be hauled back to dry land for repairs.

Boyan Slat, who launched the Pacific Ocean cleanup project, told NBC News last week that the 600-meter (2,000-foot) long floating boom will be towed 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) to Hawaii.

If it can’t be repaired there, it will be loaded on a barge and returned to its home port of Alameda, California.

 

Ocean Pollution, trash
Artist Joel Deal Stockdill, lower right, works on a blue whale art piece made from discarded single-use plastic at Crissy Field in San Francisco. VOA

 

The boom broke apart under constant wind and waves in the Pacific.

Slat said he’s disappointed, but not discouraged and pledged that operations would resume as soon as possible.

“This is an entirely new category of machine that is out there in extremely challenging conditions,” the 24-year-old Dutch inventor said. “We always took into account that we might have to take it back and forth a few times. So it’s really not a significant departure from the original plan.”

Previously Slat said the boom was moving slower than the plastic, allowing the trash to float away.

Microplastics, plastic, trash
A volunteer shows plastics retrieved from the ocean, after a garbage collection, ahead of World Environment Day, on La Costilla Beach, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Rota, Spain. VOA

A ship towed the U-shaped barrier in September from San Francisco to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an island of trash twice the size of Texas. It had been in place since the end of October.

Also Read: The Ocean And Its Climate Crisis

The plastic barrier with a tapered 3-meter-deep (10-foot-deep) screen is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in the patch while allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it.

Slat has said he hopes one day to deploy 60 of the devices to skim plastic debris off the surface of the ocean. (VOA)