Quantifying Floating Plastic Debris at Sea Using Vessel-Based Optical Data and Artificial Intelligence
August 2021, article in peer-reviewed journal
Despite recent advances in remote sensing of large accumulations of floating plastic debris, mainly in coastal regions, the quantification of individual macroplastic objects (>50 cm) remains challenging. Here, we have trained an object-detection algorithm by selecting and labeling footage of floating plastic debris recorded offshore with GPS-enabled action cameras aboard vessels of opportunity. Macroplastic numerical concentrations are estimated by combining the object detection solution with bulk processing of the optical data. Our results are consistent with macroplastic densities predicted by global plastic dispersal models, and reveal first insights into how camera recorded offshore macroplastic densities compare to micro- and mesoplastic concentrations collected with neuston trawls.