Home Science & Technology Ocean plastic pollution or not, the show must go on

Ocean plastic pollution or not, the show must go on


Award-winning filmmaker Bertie Gregory has released another version of his own Epic adventures series on Disney+, which airs this Friday, September 8th. With part of the new series set in the ocean, now is the time to catch up on ocean plastic pollution.

Interview with Bertie Gregory

CleanTechnica had a chance to ask Mr. Gregory about his struggles with plastic pollution during an email exchange last month. We also talked about his experiences with new cinematic technologies and clean technologies. Here’s our interview in full:

CleanTechnica: You’ve made changes to drone technology that require careful planning. Are there other new technologies you’ve tried – or plan to try – and how have they worked?

Gregory: In addition to their ability to give you a new perspective, drones are incredible because (when operated responsibly) they allow you to observe wildlife. It really helps us immerse the viewer in the environment and remember our animals.

The drone controls a relatively small camera with a short zoom lens. To stabilize the larger zoom camera, we used a military grade camera system with gyro stabilization called the Shotover M1. This half-million dollar system stabilizes the 50-1500mm lens we mounted on vehicles to track near lions and boats to track near whales and dolphins. Even in big waves and uneven ground, the system smooths out vibrations, so our shots are solid when the camera is moving at high speed.

CleanTechnica: Have you and your team experimented with renewable energy in your expeditions? Why or not?

Gregory: For our Antarctic whale mission, we used an ice-fortified sailboat to cross the infamous stretch of water between South America and Antarctica known as the Drake Passage. When the wind wasn’t favorable we relied on the boat’s engine, but going out on deck in the waves to wind the sails was definitely an experience.

As a film crew, we rely heavily on battery technology to power the camera, drones and lighting. I’d like to be able to charge a lot of equipment with a portable solar panel (especially in hot places!), but the technology isn’t quite ready yet. I hope that changes soon.

CleanTechnica: Have you encountered plastic pollution on ocean voyages? If so, how has it affected your photography?

Gregory: Unfortunately, we often encounter plastic even in the wildest places, such as 300 miles off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica or the Antarctic Peninsula. Although we’ve seen all kinds of trash, the most common form is discarded fishing gear.

Ocean plastic pollution and fishing gear

Discarded fishing gear – aka ghost fishing gear – does account for a large proportion of ocean plastic pollution. WWF estimates that about 12 million tons of plastic enter the oceans every year. Fishing equipment is from 500 thousand to 1 million tons annually.

Ghost gear can be concentrated in certain areas, even if it’s only about 10% of the total, Mr. Gregory suggests. For example, WWF estimates that the notorious Great Pacific Garbage Patch is approx 46% ghost gearincluding nets, ropes and ropes among other items.

Ghost gear also causes an extraordinary impact on marine flora and fauna compared to other forms of plastic pollution.

Deadly ghost gear hotspots on radar Ocean protection. “In the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary alone, which is smaller than the state of Connecticut, scientists suspect there are more than a million abandoned lobster and crab pots, of which an estimated 85,000 are actively fished,” they note.

The Ocean Conservancy also offers a financial element that could motivate and force the global fishing industry to move to a more sustainable model.

“Globally, it is estimated that 90% of species caught in lost gear are of commercial value, and stocks of some fish have been reduced by up to 30% due to active ghost gear fishing,” they note. “This has staggering implications for food security, fisheries sustainability and ultimately the profitability of the fishing industry.”

The Ghost Gear attack ramps up

For a relatively new effort, GGGI is quickly gaining traction. This is likely due to the initiative’s ability to measure and demonstrate the economic impact of ghost gear on the fishing industry of different countries.

“GGGI is working with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ocean and Fisheries Working Group (OFWG) to develop strategies to prevent ghost gear in APEC economies. Originally proposed by the United States and sponsored by the United States, Malaysia and Thailand, this project marks a major victory for cooperation in international forums on the issue of ghost gear,” the organization said in a blog post last year.

APEC includes 21 economies surrounding the Pacific Ocean, which together account for nearly 42% of the Earth’s habitable land area and 38% of its population, as well as eight of the world’s 10 largest fishing economies.

The learning curve can be steep based on the economic success of past endeavors.

For example, in 2016, researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences analyzed a program to remove abandoned crab pots from the Chesapeake Bay. “The economic benefits of the program far outweighed the total cost of the program,” the Ocean Conservancy noted, citing a “$21 million increase in harvest value over a six-year period.”

“Generally speaking, combating ghost gear improves the sustainability of fisheries and creates a win-win for anglers and fish,” they added.

Solving ocean plastic pollution

In addition to removing old ghost gear, GGGI members fight ocean plastic pollution through prevention. One is a voluntary fishing gear tagging and tracking program, which should help recover fishing gear lost in accidents in addition to creating new opportunities to identify criminals.

Alternative fishing gear, improved fishing reporting and eco-label certification are also part of the prevention package described by the GGGI in a recent report.

“Collective and joint action to solve this global problem the problem has grown exponentially in recent years and is a good indicator that this is a problem we can solve,” they conclude.

Ocean Plastic Pollution: Recycling and Recyclability

As for the other 90% of ocean plastic pollution, it will take longer to eliminate, especially if it takes the form marine microparticlessome of which come from normal daily activities eg driving and doing laundry.

However, GGGI makes a good case for attaching the sustainability star to other industries that use plastic, as well as the fishing industry. Public awareness of ocean plastic is growing, prompting manufacturers to expand their green credit by including recycled and recycled ocean plastic in their product lines (looking at you Ford). This should help expand ghost gear recovery programs and other initiatives to remove ocean plastic.

The bottom line angle can also help accelerate investor interest in research and development biodegradable substitutes for bioplasticsso stay tuned for more on that.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Photo: Bertie Gregory underwater pictures in Costa Rica (National Geographic/Mark Sharman for Disney+).


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