Anna’s got the trawl log in hand, jotting down the starting time and latitude/longitude. I’m wearing the harness and locked into the side of the ship as we open the side gate, hang overboard with the trawl, and throw it in.
“We are approaching 5 knots,” the officer on deck says. Moments before sunrise, we pull the trawl back onboard. The cod end (that’s the removable sock on the end of the net) has a dozen 4-8 centimeter-long fish, like flying fish and myctophids. We’re still far from the accumulation zone of the Indian Ocean Gyre, but there are plastic fragments here as well.
I’m reminded again that our connected oceans are a plastic soup with varying surface densities of plastic pollution. We expected to find very little here, yet here it is. There are many people with good intentions that want to solve the problem of plastic pollution by going first to the ocean. It is extremely impractical to start here. It must happen upstream, in the hands of those that create plastic, make plastic goods, and the customers that use them. We need better systems for collection and containment of waste, better products with less packaging and better materials, and plastic itself should no longer be used for throw-away products. Knowing that plastic is an environmental hazard, we must end the “Throw-Away” culture that created this mess in the first place.