Ocean Voyages Institute has removed 40 tonnes of litter from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as a result of a 25-day clean-up mission.
In this section of the Pacific, between California and Hawaii, there is an area where four ocean currents converge to create a vortex that collects huge amounts of plastics.
The institute indicated that detergent bottles, beer and soft drink crates, bleach and cleaning bottles, plastic furniture, packaging straps, buckets, toys, and other plastic was found floating in the Pacific.
A prime target for the institute’s 2019 voyage was fishing gear in the ocean, called ghost nets.
Often weighing tonnes, these nets of nylon or polypropylene drift for decades, amassing plastic debris, ensnaring wildlife, and even entangling ships.
An estimated 600,000 tonnes of this abandoned gear ends up in the oceans every year, the Ocean Voyages Institute indicated.
According to the United Nations, some 380,000 marine mammals are killed every year by either ingesting or being caught in it.
Ocean Voyages Institute founder, Mary Crowley, said satellite technology played a key role in the recovery effort – offering an innovative solution to finding areas of dense plastic pollution.
“The nets and other debris are signs of the proliferating plastic pollution that poses threats to marine life, coastal environments, shipping, fisheries, wildlife and our health,” Crowley said.
During the past year, the institute recruited yachts and ships to attach satellite trackers to the ghost nets they encountered.
These bowling ball-sized trackers, once activated, signal the nets’ locations in real time.
This data enables institute to find and retrieve the trackers and ghost nets. As the ocean tends to sort debris, the tagged nets, have shown the team areas of heavy debris distribution, so that many additional nets and other items can be harvested.
The effectiveness of this year’s mission reinforces the institute’s plan for expanded clean up missions in 2020 over a 3-month period.