Sailors join fight against plastic pollution

Saturday August 18, 2018 Written by Published in Environment

This is a weekly column supplied by Te Ipukarea Society.

A team of sailors from Hawaii, New Zealand and the US have joined forces on an expedition across the southern Pacific Ocean to witness and record the growing epidemic of plastic pollution facing our oceans and marine life. 

A rotating team of around eight crew will be visiting island nations across the Pacific, documenting the plastic debris they find as they cross through the South Pacific Gyre.

An ocean gyre is a large system of circular ocean currents formed by global wind patterns and forces created by Earth’s rotation. There are five notable gyres: the Indian Ocean Gyre, North Atlantic Gyre, North Pacific Gyre, South Atlantic Gyre and South Pacific Gyre. 

The movement of these major ocean gyres help drive the “ocean conveyor belt”. This conveyor belt is the cause of circulating ocean water around the entire planet. There are some patches of ocean however, such as the North Pacific, which experience a lack of ocean movement, causing debris and litter to accumulate in these areas for years. This phenomenon is now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Te Ipukarea Society’s recent work trip to Suwarrow reinforced the significance of this plastic waste issue, which revealed itself on an uninhabited island. Trails of plastic waste marked the high tide line on the shores of Suwarrow’s islets. Plastic waste was also found scattered throughout the islets by past storm surges. 

Witnessing the impacts of marine litter taking effect on an uninhabited island, further reinforced the need for a regional collaboration to urgently tackle this issue

The Eat Less Plastic team aim to gain momentum for encouraging change, by visiting a number of the Pacific islands, obtaining data from each island and then sharing with these islands what steps and methods their neighbouring islands are doing to combat the rising tide of plastic.

The team arrived at Avatiu Harbour at the start of the week after visiting Tahiti, where they were able to share their story and findings. During their stay on Rarotonga, the team plan to visit Titikaveka, Imanuela Akatemia and Tereora College to raise further awareness about their project and to stimulate like-minded people into thinking about living a sustainable plastic-free lifestyle by “reducing, refusing and recycling” plastic waste.

After visiting the Cook Islands, the Eat Less Plastic team will sail on to Niue, Tonga, Fiji and finally New Zealand. All data collected from this expedition will then be sent to the “5 Gyres Trawl Share Program” to analyse and quantify the impact plastic is having on our oceans, marine life and our ecosystems. Results will be used to educate and create legislative changes for our future.

To learn more about the crew and their mission go to and

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