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All-women’s scientific research expedition investigates solution to ocean plastic pollution

Posted on 3rd July 2018 at 15:37pm

An expedition made up of an international group of 24 women from Britain, USA, Canada, Slovenia, Norway and Honduras, has set sail on a scientific research mission to investigate solutions to the devastating impact of single-use plastic and toxics in the world’s oceans. Led by award-winning British skipper and ocean advocate, Emily Penn, the crew is made up of scientists, students, artists, filmmakers, business women, psychologists, actors, ocean activists and sustainability professionals, and both novice and experienced sailors.

The Sea Dragon, an exploration vessel owned by Panaea Exploration, will sail more than 3,000 miles to help studies on the impact of plastics in our oceans (image: eXXpedition)

The crew will be sailing Sea Dragon, a 72ft scientific exploration vessel (owned by Pangaea Exploration) from Oahu, Hawaii to Vancouver, British Columbia and then from Vancouver to Seattle, where the journey will end. The journey will take them across more than 3,000 nautical miles through the densest ocean plastic accumulation zone on the planet – the North Pacific Gyre – better known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The crew will conduct daily trawls for plastics and pollutants, and collect data for a variety of global datasets and scientific research studies along the way. This data is used to support scientists in the UK, Canada, Switzerland and the USA, including conservation organisation Ocean Wise in Canada and the Hawaii Pacific University. Studies range in focus from understanding the impact of plastic pollution on sea turtle environments to microplastics and the impact of toxics carried on plastic, on our bodies.

eXXpedition, the British Community Interest Company behind North Pacific 2018, specialises in all-women sailing expeditions. This is the 10th eXXpedition voyage and the first in the North Pacific Gyre. It has the endorsement and support of the UN Environment Clean Seas initiative and Ocean Wise.

Cleaning up small and microplastics from the beach in Hawaii (photo: eXXpedition & Eleanor Church)

Earlier this month, on World Environment Day, Emily Penn was awarded the British Prime Minister's Points of Light award, which recognises outstanding individuals and noted the important work of the eXXpedition voyages in scientific research and ocean advocacy.

North Pacific 2018 aims to: Raise awareness of the devastating impact of single-use plastic and toxics in the world’s oceans; champion and contribute to innovative scientific research to tackle the crisis;

celebrate women in science, leadership and adventure; and create a community of female changemakers and inspiring global ambassadors to tackle plastic pollution and its effects on health and the environment.

Microplastics found floating in the North Pacific Gyre. The researchers pulled a fine net through the water – this is what they discovered. “It’s hard to wrap our heads around how many more are out there," said one crew member (Image: eXXpedition)

“Bold, exciting and innovative science into ocean plastic and toxics is at the heart of all eXXpedition voyages.This year, we are seeing a shift in scientific focus. Scientists still want to know how much plastic is out there and where it is, but they also want to know which toxic chemicals are on the surface of it, whether organisms are growing on it and what the impacts might be on wildlife, and on us,” says Emily Penn.

Click on link for an overview of the scientific plan for the voyage.

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