40 tons of fishing nets retrieved in Pacific Ocean cleanup

Photo: Gettyimages

In a mission to clean up trash floating in the ocean, environmentalists pulled 40 tons (36 metric tons) of abandoned fishing nets this month from an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Mariners on a 140-foot (43-meter) cargo sailboat outfitted with a crane voyaged from Hawaii to the heart of the Pacific Ocean, where they retrieved the haul of mostly plastic fishing nets as part of an effort to rid the waters of the nets that entangle whales, turtles and fish and damage coral reefs.

The volunteers with the California-based nonprofit Ocean Voyages Institute fished out the derelict nets from a marine gyre location where ocean currents converge between Hawaii and California during their 25-day expedition.

The group is among a handful of nonprofits working to collect plastic trash from the open ocean, an endeavor that can be dangerous, time consuming and expensive.

"Our success should herald the way for us to do larger clean ups and to inspire clean ups all throughout the Pacific Ocean and throughout the world. It's not something that we need to wait to do," Crowley said.

It is estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 metric tons of fishing gear is abandoned or lost during storms each year in the oceans, said Nick Mallos, Director of the Trash Free Seas Program at Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group.

Another 9 million tons (8 million metric tons) of plastic waste, including plastic bottles, bags, toys and other items, flow annually into the ocean from beaches, rivers and creeks, according to experts.

The group has raised millions of dollars from donors around the world, including San Francisco billionaire Marc Benioff.

The buoyant, 2,000-foot (600-meter) long boom was floating 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from Hawaii's coast when it broke apart under constant wind.

After being repaired, it was re-deployed last week.

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