top of page

Ocean Voyages Institute Removes 40 Tons of Plastic

Press Release - Ocean Voyages Institute

Ocean Voyages Institute Removes 40 Tons of Plastic, including

5-Ton Ghost Net

Largest Ocean Clean Up Mission/A Turning Point For Ocean


Sausalito, CA – Ocean Voyages Institute, a nonprofit organization, announced today that it has successfully removed more than 40 tons

of fishing nets and consumer plastics from the area known as the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, or more commonly known as the Pacific Gyre.

The sailing cargo ship, S/V KWAI, arrived in Honolulu today, having

completed a 25-day clean up mission. In the Pacific, between California

and Hawaii, four ocean currents converge to create a vortex that

collects huge amounts of plastics. One sees detergent bottles, beer

and soft drink crates, bleach and cleaning bottles, plastic furniture,

packaging straps, buckets, children’s toys, and myriad types of plastic

floating mid-ocean. This debris field covers vast expanses of ocean.

A prime target for OV Institute’s 2019 voyage was the fishing gear

called “ghost nets.” Often weighing tons, these massive nets of nylon

or polypropylene drift for decades, amassing plastic debris, ensnaring

wildlife, and even entangling ships. An estimated 600,000 tons of this

abandoned gear ends up in the oceans every year. According to the

United Nations, some 380,000 marine mammals are killed every year

by either ingesting or being caught in it.

“Satellite technology played a key role in our recovery effort, offering

an innovative solution to finding areas of dense plastic pollution,” said

Mary Crowley, Founder and Executive Director of OV Institute. “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.”

OV Institute utilized expert drone operators on board, flying survey

patterns off of both KWAI and our plastic survey vessel AVEIA to find

additional debris. The effectiveness of this year’s mission reinforces

our plan for expanded clean up missions in 2020 over a 3-month

period, using the S/V KWAI and additional clean up vessels, one of

which will be adapting fishing gear to fish for plastics.

During the past year, OV 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 OV Institute to find and retrieve the trackers

and ghost nets. As the ocean tends to sort debris, the tagged nets,

have shown us to areas of heavy debris distribution, so that many

additional nets and other items can be harvested.

OV Institute collaborated with Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner of the

University of Hawaii, coordinating the NASA-funded FloatEco project

that studies physical processes controlling long-range drift of marine

debris and its accumulation in some areas of the ocean as well as

biological processes controlling evolution of the pelagic floating


Ocean plastic pollution was unknown merely forty years ago. Today,

plastic has been documented in the deepest parts of the ocean—near

the Mariana Trench (depth 36,000 feet) and in the most remote ocean

ecosystems, such as Antarctica.

Crowley, a lifelong sailor, launched her first 30-day research expedition

to the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone in 2009. Additional

expeditions occurred in the following years, including small scale clean

up missions.

“It is very disturbing to be sailing through what was only decades ago

a pristine ocean wilderness and find it filled with our all-too-familiar

garbage,” says Crowley. “Urgent action is needed at all levels:

curtailing the manufacture of throwaway plastics, preventing plastic

trash from entering the oceans, and enlisting the public, corporations,

and the maritime industry in education, prevention, innovation and

massive cleanup efforts. The question is, are we ready to make it a

priority to protect 72 percent of the planet?”

About Ocean Voyages Institute

Ocean Voyages Institute (OVI) was founded in 1979 with a mission of

preserving the global ocean, the maritime arts and sciences and island

cultures. In 2009, OVI’s ocean clean up initiative was launched with the

focus on major ocean clean-up and to raise awareness regarding the

huge issue of plastic pollution.

Ryan Yerkey, +1.415.332.4681

Eleanor Kerlow, +1.301.335.8141

44 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page