SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Environmentalists pulled 40 tons (36 metric tons) of fishing nets this month in an effort to clean up trash floating in the Pacific Ocean.
Mariners on a 140-foot (43-meter) cargo sailboat outfitted with a crane voyaged from Hawaii to the heart of the Pacific Ocean, to an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Their cleanup efforts yielded mostly plastic fishing nets.
The volunteers with the California-based nonprofit Ocean Voyages Institute fished out the nets from a marine gyre location where ocean currents converge between Hawaii and California. The expedition lasted 25 days, the group’s founder, Mary Crowley, announced Friday.
“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.
The cargo ship returned to Honolulu on June 18, where they separated out 2 tons (1.8 metric tons) of plastic trash from the haul of fishing nets. The trash was donated to local artists so that they may transform it into art work in order to educate people about ocean plastic pollution. The rest of the refuse was turned over to a zero emissions energy plant which will incinerate it and turn it into energy, Crowley said.
A year before the expedition a California-based group, the Sausalito, gave sailors voyaging from California to Hawaii buoyant GPS trackers to attach to the nets they encountered during their crossing so they could be tracked later on.
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.
According to experts, 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.
The Ocean Voyages Institute is one of dozens of groups around the world trying to tackle the problem of trash in the ocean and find a solution to 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.