Research voyage will study ocean plastic pollution

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Offshore sailor Matt Rutherford and field scientist Nicole Trenholm are ready to depart on a non-stop sailing research voyage from Oakland, Calif., to Fukuoka, Japan.

By deploying a high-speed trawl net off the side of their 29-foot vessel while under way, the expedition, which is conducted by the non-profit Ocean Research Project, will embark on the first-ever continent-to-continent survey of plastic marine debris in the world’s oceans.

The specially designed net has limited drag. It will scoop up small pieces of plastic trash and plastic debris floating on the surface of the Pacific. Once the trip is complete in the summer, the debris will be catalogued and studied at onshore labs to help better understand the impact of plastic debris on marine life and on human health.

“When we cast off we’ll be attempting something that’s never been done before. The ocean is a vast and wild place, but unfortunately it’s not pristine. Human impacts can be seen even thousands of miles from shore,” Rutherford said.