A Dutch non-profit group called The Ocean Cleanup released a report on September 1 that found the bulk of the plastic debris in the so-called North Pacific Garbage Patch consists of discarded fishing equipment from Japan and China.
The garbage patch is often depicted in Western media and popular culture as refuse created by heavy industry or thrown into the ocean by careless Americans and Europeans. Much of the trash heap supposedly consists of minuscule debris known as microplastics.
The North Pacific Garbage Patch (NPGP), first discovered in 1997, was created by intersecting ocean currents between the West Coast of the United States and the Hawaiian Islands. Researchers later found small debris moving through a “subtropical convergence zone” to another garbage patch on the far side of the Pacific, east of Japan. The NPGP is estimated to cover several million square kilometers, weighing in at tens of thousands of tons.
According to research by The Ocean Cleanup published in Scientific Reports, up to 86 percent of the debris in the North Pacific Garbage Patch actually consists of “items that were abandoned, lost, or discarded by fishing vessels.”
The Ocean Cleanup began its revolutionary study in 2019, a year after a surprising survey that found almost half of the debris in the garbage patch was from discarded fishing nets. The study that began in 2019 harvested over 6,000 plastic objects from the ocean by dragging huge U-shaped nets behind research vessels. To the surprise of the researchers, the bulk of the identifiable debris they collected was “fishing and aquaculture gear,” including equipment used to harvest fish, oysters, and eel.