Auckland waters a sea of plastic

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Phil Somerville and the crew of Today sailed the globe, trawling the sea for plastic and found plenty in Tiri channel. The painstaking process of analyzing the micro-plastic “catch”.

Seawater scooped from the Tiri channel proved to contain plenty of tiny pieces of plastic – which was a disappointment to the sailors who recorded the data.

The plastic was pulled from the ocean in a super fine Mantra trawl, designed to collect even the tiniest particles.

It was among the final trawls undertaken by the crew of the ship Today, which spent six months sailing from California to New Zealand, trawling for plastic along its 8800-mile journey. The ship arrived in New Zealand last month.

The Eat Less Plastic project is supported by a number of celebrities, including Rhys Darby and Martin Henderson, who all took a turn onboard, and well-known sailors such as Chris Dickson.

The information collected by the team goes to the 5 Gyre Institute, a nonprofit organisation in Los Angeles whose mission it is ‘to empower action against the global health crisis of plastic pollution through science, education, and adventure’.

This brand new data will be used to analyse and quantify the impacts that plastic is having on the ocean and marine life as well as the wider ecosystem.

Captain of the ship, Phil Somerville, is an Aucklander whose parents are long time residents of Stanmore Bay. So he says he was hopeful that the trawls undertaken in Auckland, including one on November 14 between Gulf Harbour and Tiritiri Matangi Island, would net only a small amount of plastic.

“In fact, it was one of the heaviest loads we’ve seen, no doubt assisted by the currents and tides,” he says. “It was right up there on the scale, which I found surprising.”

The trawling process involved skimming the top 30cm of water for around 1-2 hours. The contents of the net were then sieved and analysed. A lot of micro-plastic (pieces less than 5mm) was found, as well as larger pieces of plastic and other rubbish.

Phil says 95 percent of all the trawls had plastic in them and that they hope to concentrate efforts in the Pacific in future – he says the plastic pollution was particularly bad off the Fiji islands.

He says future work will focus on education for the Fijian government and school children.


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