On Tuesday, the California-based Ocean Voyages Institute’s marine plastic recovery vessel, S/V KWAI, hauled 103 tons of fishing nets and consumer plastics into Honolulu. The ship had set out for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in early May and after 48 days, it turned in a record haul with the largest at-sea clean-up in the Gyre to date.
In 2019, the same group collected just under 50 tons of trash in two ocean cleanups using the same method, which uses GPS satellite trackers designed by Ocean Voyage Institute and Pacific Gyre, Inc. Volunteer ships place beacons on fishing nets when they come across them, and then the Ocean Voyage Institute crew sets out to those locations on their journey. What they’ve learned (and a theory they’ve tested and are proving correct) is that locating one fishing net will lead them to many in a single location.
“We are utilizing proven nautical equipment to effectively clean-up the oceans while innovating with new technologies,” says Mary Crowley, founder and executive director of Ocean Voyages Institute. “Ocean Voyages Institute has been a leader in researching and accomplishing ocean clean-up for over a decade – granted with less fanfare and attention than others, but with passion and commitment and making meaningful impacts.”
Now, the 103 tons of trash will be up-cycled and disposed of in various ways, according to the Institute, making sure none of it ends up back in the sea. Still, their work isn’t done with the massive haul. A second voyage with the same ship is planned to depart at the end of the month, with the scale and number of total expeditions being determined by the number of donations the institute garners in the meantime. In the future, they plan to have as many as three separate ships operating on similar missions throughout different parts of the world.
“Our solutions are scalable, and next year, we could have three vessels operating in the North Pacific Gyre for three months all bringing in large cargos of debris,” says Crowley. “We are aiming to expand to other parts of the world desperately needing efficient clean-up technologies. 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.”