The driver behind our mission to rid the world’s oceans of plastic is to make the ocean a healthier place for all life that benefits from it, so our number one priority is safety for the environment and our crew. While the overall risks of our operations were found to be negligible, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted by CSA Ocean Sciences determined that certain interactions are likely with some species of fish, and certain plankton and neustonic organisms with limited mobility, so we must minimize this impact as much as possible.
Because of the lack of data, there is uncertainty on the residual impact our operations will have on these communities; therefore, we aim to help fill these knowledge gaps by collecting data during these missions and sharing with the scientific community. The EIA does note that the long-term impact on fish species should be beneficial due to the removal of large amounts of plastic and marine debris, and that it is unlikely that potentially-impacted fish species will decrease in number.
The system is designed to be safe for the environment; speed (slower than a casual stroll), materials, and shape have all been chosen to minimize the chances of any negative side effects. Additionally, as an extra precaution, the system is equipped with several mitigation measures to deter marine animals from interacting with the system. Using an underwater camera, we monitor the system from the vessels for plastic concentrations and to spot potential sea life nearby. While extracting plastic, crew is present and monitoring the area. If necessary, we can and will halt cleanup operations based on the event severity level.
As we continue to learn more about the technology and the natural behaviors of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, we will adapt as needed to ensure we have a minimal impact.