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On-board surveys of ocean plastic: Manta trawl, “high-speed trawl” and the future?

22 april 2010

Immediately after leaving Perth, we started fishing for plastic. Using these samples from the ocean, we hope to get a better idea of the amounts, sizes and sources of the plastic we find. To fish up the plastic, we used a Manta Trawl. This is a sort of dragnet in a floating structure that creams off the top 20 cm of the sea surface.

It soon turned out that the Manta Trawl was difficult to use at the speeds sailed by the Beagle (about 7.5 knots and, after the typhoon, up to 8.5 knots). As a result, we went to work on board on the development of a “high-speed trawl”, together with Marcus and Anna (from the Algalita Foundation) and the crew, Johan the boatswain in particular. After numerous adjustments to the aerodynamics, some of them only quite small, we managed in the end to keep the “high-speed trawl” in the water without any problems for 20 hours at 10-12 knots, obtaining good ocean samples (with a net opening of 0.5 mm).

The Beagle crew is still using the “high-speed trawl” on the next step of their voyage from Mauritius to Cape Town. Monitoring the ocean remains crucial to find out more about the plastic.

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