Industrialised Fishing Nations Largely Contribute to Floating Plastic Pollution in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre
September 2022, Article in peer-reviewed journal
The subtropical oceanic gyre in the North Pacific Ocean is currently covered with tens of thousands of tonnes of floating plastic debris, dispersed over millions of square kilometres. A large fraction is composed of fishing nets and ropes while the rest is mostly composed of hard plastic objects and fragments, sometimes carrying evidence on their origin. In 2019, an oceanographic mission conducted in the area, retrieved over 6000 hard plastic debris items> 5 cm. The debris was later sorted, counted, weighed, and analysed for evidence of origin and age. Our results, complemented with numerical model simulations and findings from a previous oceanographic mission, revealed that a majority of the floating material stems from fishing activities. While recent assessments for plastic inputs into the ocean point to coastal developing economies and rivers as major contributors into oceanic plastic pollution, here we shoshow that most floating plastics in the North Pacific subtropical gyre can be traced back to five industrialised fishing nations, highlighting the important role the fishing industry plays in the solution to this global issue.