Ocean Cleanup Study Says Pacific Garbage Patch Is Primarily Fishing Gear


Marine plastic pollution is a major environmental problem, as evidenced by the enormous Great Pacific Garbage Patch. According to a new study by the Ocean Cleanup Project and Wageningen University, the majority of plastic waste in this patch is from the fishing industry.

Located in the North Pacific Ocean, the Great Pacific Trash Patch (GPGP) covers an area of ​​approximately 1.6 million square kilometers (617,763 square miles). It is made up of around 1.8 trillion pieces of floating plastic debris, with a total weight of around 88,000 tonnes (80,000 tonnes).

Founded in 2013 by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat (when he was just 18), the Ocean Cleanup Project has since set out to eliminate as much of this plastic as possible, slowly but steadily decreasing the size of GPGP. The plastic is collected by a huge U-shaped floating barrier, which is towed through the water by vessels at each end.

The System 002 garbage collection system of the Ocean Cleanup project

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When most people think of the Garbage Patch, they probably imagine it to be full of “spilled” trash such as plastic bottles, bags, or product wrappers…and such trash. Is would constitute the majority of marine plastic pollution in general, as it is transported by rivers into the sea.

Regarding what makes up GPGP More precisely, however, the Ocean Cleanup Project has just announced that 75% to 86% of plastic comes from deep-sea fishing activity. These figures are based on analysis of over 6,000 hard plastic objects measuring over 5cm (2 inches) in size, which were collected by the project in 2019. Although these items included things like buoys, floats, crates and buckets, it should be noted that nets and ropes were not counted in the survey.

The text printed on some items provided a clue as to their country of origin
The text printed on some items provided a clue as to their country of origin

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So why the predominance of fishing gear?

The study says that thanks to wind patterns and ocean currents, “plastic lost at sea is more likely to accumulate offshore than plastic emitted by rivers, leading to high concentrations of fishing-related debris. in the GPGP”. It was also found that, based on brand names, print language, and other clues, the majority of items were likely from Japan (34%), China (32%), Peninsula Korea (10%) and the United States (7%). ).

“To stop the influx of plastic into our oceans, tackling riverine emissions – the biggest source – must remain a key priority,” Slat said. “However, to ensure that our GPGP cleanup work is truly sustainable, fishing gear inputs must also be stopped. We hope that our latest study will enable organizations and the fishing industry itself to address this other source of plastic pollution to GPGP.”

A report on the results of the project has been published in the journal Scientific reports.

Source: cleaning up the ocean


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