It’s industrial fishing carried out by a handful of countries that feed the large, floating plastic island in the North Pacific: This is indicated by the analysis of more than half a ton of debris collected at sea. Results published Featured in Scientific Reports by an international group of experts coordinated by the non-profit organization The Ocean Cleanup.
Researchers analyzed 573 kilograms of debris (more than 6,000 pieces larger than five centimeters) collected between June and November 2019 on a massive plastic island that formed in the ocean vortex known as the ‘subtropical ‘North Pacific Ring’. Each wreck has been examined for inscriptions or emblems that could in some way indicate its origin. About 33% of the fragments were unidentified, while 26% came from fishing gear (eg fish packs, oyster separators, and eel traps). Although life jackets and buoys account for only 3% of the objects on the plastic island, they make up 21% of the total mass.
It was possible to determine the country of origin of 232 wrecks: 34% came from Japan, 32% from China, 10% from South Korea, 6% from the United States, 6% from Taiwan, and 5% from Canada. Taking into account the circulation patterns of ocean currents, researchers argue that they are ten times more likely to arise from fishing activities than from activities on land.
Therefore, the study highlights the need for more transparency on the part of companies engaged in industrial fishing activities, as well as increased cooperation between countries to regulate waste management on ships and to control equipment left in the oceans.
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