After spending four days on the docks of Bordeaux, South West of France, the Odyssey Race for Water research team left nearly two weeks ago for a world tour. An expedition for the survival of the oceans aboard the MOD70 trimaran.
Farewell to families and the city of Bordeaux made, the seven members of trimaran crew pointed towards the Azores and set off on the first leg of their 300 day adventure to conduct scientific research on the amount of plastic waste in the oceans. Their goal, according to Franck David, Executive Director of the Race for Water is “to visit the beaches of the islands located within five gyres of waste in order to make an initial assessment of the overall amount of ocean pollution by plastic–and to show the consequences.”
Their trip is focussed on the five major gyres in the world. A gyre is a massive vortex created by wind and ocean currents. Plastic waste in the ocean gets trapped in the center of these gyres, and accumulates in massive quantities–so much, in fact, that the term “sixth continent” has been applied. “Eighty percent of ocean pollution is due to plastic,” says Franck David. “This is a disaster for the fish. Millions of fish die every year because of plastic.”
Because it can float just a few inches below the surface, plastic pollution can be almost invisible to the naked eye, and is not seen easily by aerial photos. It’s difficult to map the size of these huge accumulations of plastic accurately. Steve Ravussin, the skipper of the boat, will fly a drone to more effectively map the areas where the waste is.
As surfers, we must also lead by example. Plastic pollution affects us in so many ways. The plastic fragments into microparticles and plastic releases toxic chemicals that can be easily ingested by marine species and ultimately, by us. The impact of pollution generates adverse effects on wildlife and ocean flora, and the the disappearance of coral reefs.
Kelly Slater, a true ambassador with 11 world championship titles, witnessed this terrible situation in 2012 during a surf trip to Bali in Indonesia. He shared his disgust on Twitter: “I’ve never been so alarmed by pollution situation as this trip to Bali/Indo. We need solutions and multi-industry backing,” he wrote. “If Bali doesn’t #DoSomething serious about this pollution it’ll be impossible to surf here in a few years. Worst I’ve ever seen.”
Since then, not much has changed. The Race for Water will be (hopefully) provide some answers by creating an inventory using drones. “We will have the results by June 2016 with the aim to have solutions,” says David. “The findings are already known. What we want are the right solutions and economically viable.”