Following 45 days of cleaning the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a cargo vessel hauling approximately 200,000 pounds of waste reached Sausalito on Tuesday.
The 132-foot cargo vessel from the Ocean Voyages Institute accumulated over 96 tons of ocean debris — including sorts of fishing nets and plastic toys — during the cleanup voyage from Honolulu through the North Pacific Gyre (or the patch).
Across 4,600 nm, the ship’s crew members recovered the garbage haul in the vast Pacific area between San Francisco and Hawaii that is prone to an accumulation of swirling debris — what the captain of the ship, Locky MacLean, referred to as miles of whirlpooling and gyrating plastic debris floating all around.
The crew members discovered derelict fishing nets — some of these weighed up to nearly six tons when several nets glommed together — as well as an abandoned fishing boat and all sorts of consumer plastics, including toys, containers, and lawn chairs, said Mary Crowley, the president and founder of the Sausalito-based institute that has been spearheading many ocean cleanup initiatives starting from 2009.
She observed that all trash items, mainly fishing nets that can entangle marine lives, are extremely harmful to the marine ecosystem. The junk can destroy the coral reefs and contribute significantly to the plastics crisis in the ocean.
Crowley added that humans had used the ocean simply as a garbage pail in what is otherwise a gorgeous “ocean wilderness.
The most perplexing items this time were mysterious-looking plastic floating items; some appeared to have been afloat for years. An object, at 20 feet in width and 6 feet in height, took up the width of the vessel’s cargo hold. The captain estimated that it weighed about 3.5 tons.
MacLean said that it appeared like a colossal pontoon blanketed in gooseneck barnacles, but no one could tell what it was. It seems like fiberglass or almost like a plastic tank that came from a fishing vessel or wastes from a natural disaster.
In about a week or so, the vessel will once again sail through the Gyre to Honolulu in the second round of cleanup, Crowley mentioned.
The nonprofit uses a mix of methods to identify and eliminate the debris, including GPS satellite trackers, high-powered drones, binoculars, and a crane to lift heavy items.
All items gathered from the ocean cleanup will be recycled, repurposed, or upcycled with nothing going to landfills or back into the ocean, per nonprofit.
References: Futurism, San Francisco Chronicle