Day on the Bay with The Clean Oceans Project

Created on Thursday, 28 June 2012

Yesterday, FishWise’s Victoria Galitzine was invited to go on a sailing and trash collection mission in San Francisco Bay with fellow Santa Cruz ocean conservationists The Clean Oceans Project (TCOP), whose goal is to sail to the North Pacific Gyre and actively begin cleaning up the accumulated plastic trash and convert it into fuel. The aim of the day was to demonstrate CODAR, a new high-frequency radar technology that tracks surface ocean currents in order to locate areas of converging currents where, theoretically, more ocean debris can be found and ultimately collected.

Read about her trip below:

It was a warm and sunny morning as I set off for Alameda with TCOP’s Operations Director, Jim ‘Homer’ Holm and TCOP volunteer Tessa Rosichan. Everyone was excited as we gathered by the Derek M Baylis, a 65 foot yacht built specifically for research voyages, and waited in the beautiful Alameda Marina for the news teams from San Francisco’s ABC 7 and NBC Bay Area.

When everyone had gathered, we had our safety briefing from Captain Homer and set off into the San Francisco Bay on the hunt for converging currents, using the CODAR iPad app as our guide. We quickly found some convergence lines using the app’s map feature and headed to Angel Island to investigate. As suspected, a long thin stream of debris had collected along the convergence. Mostly this consisted of organic material, but amongst the seaweed clumps and driftwood was plenty of trash – cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and industrial polystyrene and foam.

A few of the crew grabbed nets and swiped at the plastic debris as Captain Homer guided us slowly along the convergence lines. All-in-all we collected about a pound of plastic trash in half an hour, which was great considering the wind had produced a chop on the water that had forced a lot of the debris below the surface. All of the plastic trash collected was suitable to be put through another technology TCOP hope to employ in the North Pacific Gyre: a plastic-to-fuel machine that converts plastic trash into liquid fuel. The plan is to use this fuel to help power the boat when sailing isn’t an option and energy from solar technology is insufficient.

Plastic pollution in the oceans is something nobody likes to claim responsibility for, and yet we are all responsible for it. It affects the entire ecosystem, including seafood species that frequently ingest plastic, mistaking it for food. By raising awareness of plastic pollution issues and utilizing ever-advancing technology, we can start to seek out the solutions to this deadly problem. For more information visit the TCOP site and check out photos from the trip on our Facebook page!