The Honolulu-based motorsailing vessel Kwai has recently returned to port with a record-setting haul of 103 tons of marine debris collected from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. After being chartered by the Ocean Voyages Institute of Sausalito, the Kwai departed from Hilo in early May and embarked on a 48-day voyage to the Garbage Patch to collect previously tagged ‘ghost nets’ and other marine debris. An effort spearheaded by Bay Area sailor Mary Crowley, the Ocean Voyages Institute has now chartered the Kwai on multiple missions, including a trip last year that netted some 42 tons of rubbish. Continuing to shoot for the stars, Crowley and the Ocean Voyages Institute have said that they aim to recover about 400 tons of debris from the Garbage Patch in 2020 alone.
“I am so proud of our hard-working crew,” said Ocean Voyages Institute founder and executive director Mary Crowley in a statement. “We exceeded our goal of capturing 100 tons of toxic consumer plastics and derelict ‘ghost nets,’ and in these challenging times, we are continuing to help restore the health of our ocean, which influences our own health and the health of the planet.”
The trip to the Garbage Patch is just the latest effort by the Ocean Voyages Institute, which plans to send the Kwai to the North Pacific Gyre multiple times this year. One of the great dangers of the ocean, large derelict fishing nets litter the waters and pose a major threat to marine wildlife, coral reefs and even other vessels.
Once it’s tagged with a GPS locating beacon by a volunteer vessel — oftentimes a Transpac or Pacific Cup racing vessel that is being delivered home to the West Coast — the net will continue to drift at sea until the Kwai motorsails to its position and recovers the net, or until the net washes up onto an unsuspecting coral reef and leaves a trail of destruction. Crowley and her team have noticed that once they are on scene to retrieve one net, they tend to find several others nearby.
“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 cargoes of debris,” says Crowley. “We are aiming to expand to other parts of the world desperately needing efficient cleanup 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.” The Kwai should be headed back to sea around the time that you read this.
The success of the Ocean Voyages Institute’s missions to the Garbage Patch is a welcome sign of relief to any sailor who has sailed through the region, or to any environmentally conscious individual who has become aware of how truly devastating the problem of marine debris and plastic pollution is. While bringing in record-setting hauls of rubbish may sound great, it’s just further evidence that record amounts of rubbish are in the oceans.
The only way to really help solve the problem is for consumers to stop consuming single-use plastics. We try to be pretty environmentally friendly at Latitude 38. We urge all our readers to do the same. Whether it’s carrying a reusable metal water bottle or a reusable travel coffee mug, or even a spare Tupperware container for extra takeout food items, we can all make small adjustments every day that will help reduce our total plastic consumption, and thus how much ends up in the ocean or in a landfill.