Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Study results: there is a lot of trash and derelict fishing gear, and we're learning where to find it!

We are now releasing reports and results from Rozalia Project's work this summer. We are kicking it off with our most recent expedition, the Isles of Shoals neuston net study...

Rozalia Project discovers marine debris densities of up to 105,564 pieces and 2.25 miles of monofilament and rope per square mile in the tidelines and current convergences 
east of the Isles of Shoals
Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean conducted a 4 day neuston net survey of marine debris density and type in the waters around the Isles of Shoals of New Hampshire and Maine. This expedition was funded and supported by the Bonnell Cove Foundation of the Cruising Club of America.
The objective of the survey was to identify if marine debris/derelict fishing gear was found in greater densities in the proximity of tidelines and current convergences and if so, in what densities and make up. This research was conducted by the Rozalia Project as part of a larger ongoing study to come up with marine debris detection and removal methods.

The survey was conducted from Rozalia Project's 60 foot sailing research vessel American Promise, utilizing a 1 x 0.5 meter, 333ยต neuston net (provided by Sea Education Association), towed from a spinnaker pole 15 feet off the starboard beam of the vessel at speeds ranging from 1.4 - 2.2 knots. Survey tracks were run in depths of water from 65-330 feet.
The net was washed down when lifted out, to move items stuck on the net down into the cod end jar. The cod end jar was removed and contents sieved through paper towel. Fish, jelly fish and lobster larvae were returned to the sea immediately. The remaining sample was thoroughly inspected by eye for microplastics, fishing line and other marine debris. Once marine debris was removed, remaining organic matter and plankton were returned to the sea. All marine debris items collected were identified, catalogued and those under 2” stored. Larger items of marine debris such as plastic bags were recycled or properly disposed of on land.
Eight trawls, each 1 nautical mile in length were completed (see image below).
  • Trawls 1 and 2 were conducted west of White Island, Isles of Shoals
  • Trawls 3 and 4 were conducted on Old Scantum ledge, 8 miles SE of Isles of Shoals
  • Trawls 5 and 6 were conducted 1-4 miles east of Smuttynose Island, Isles of Shoals
  • Trawl 7 was conducted 2 miles west of Appledore Island, Isles of Shoals
  • Trawl 8 was conducted 1.5 miles east of Smuttynose Island, Isles of Shoals
  • Trawl 5 was the only trawl that was conducted through a visually identified tideline. Seaweed, foam and floating micro, meso and macro marine debris were all observed on the surface in this trawl area.
  • Trawls 3 through 8 were conducted under sail
The ledges to the east of the Isles of Shoals are a convergent/upwelling zone on the outer bend of a slowing Western Maine Coastal Current (see figure left). This is potentially a temporary terminus area for marine debris that has travelled half of the Gulf of Maine Gyre past some of North America's busiest commercial fishing areas of Nova Scotia and Coastal Maine. In addition, it is an area in proximity to and encompassing marine mammal habitat and feeding grounds such as Jeffrey’s Ledge, seasonal home to minke, finback, and humpback whales as well as the endangered Atlantic right whale.
Using daily sea surface temperature satellite pictures, we identified where the cold water of the Western Maine Coastal Current upwelled to converge with warmer inshore waters, this convergence on September the 13th produced a  visually defined tideline, as we sailed 1.0 miles east from Smuttynose island on the Isle of Shoals. The tideline was in a SW-NE axis. We conducted Trawl 5 at a 90 degree angle to the tideline, and bisected it at the 0.5 nautical mile distance of the 1 nautical mile length trawl.
Right: This image was taken at 1800 UTC, September 13, 2011. The red lines to the left show the border between Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The convergence is labeled with a black line and the track of Trawl 5 in red.
  1. Trawls 1,2,3,4,6,7,8 yielded an average of 4.714 pieces of marine debris. This equals: 8,731 pieces of marine debris per nautical square mile
  2. Trawls 1,2,3,4,6,7,8 yielded derelict fishing gear in the form of monofilament fishing line and rope/net fiber that made up 30.3% of the marine debris collected in these trawls
  3. Trawl 5 bisected a visible tideline and yielded 57 pieces of marine debris. This equals: 105,564 pieces of marine debris per nm2
  4. Trawl 5 yielded derelict fishing gear in the form of monofliament fishing line and rope/net fiber that made up 66% of the marine debris collected in this trawl
  5. Trawl 5 contained 22 pieces of monofilament that averaged 3.2cm/piece totaling 70.4cm
  6. Trawl 5 contained 16 pieces of rope/net fiber that averaged 9.6cm/piece totaling 154.1cm
  7. Trawl 5 contained 224.5cm total length of monofilament and fiber. This equals 2.245 nm of monofilament and rope/net fiber per nm2
  8. Tidelines and current convergences can yield up to:
    • 105,564 pieces of marine debris/nm2
    • 2.25 nautical miles of monofilament, fishing line and rope and net fiber/nm2
  1. More research is needed to increase the number of tidelines, convergences that are sampled by neuston net to give a good representative sample
  2. There is a higher density of floating marine debris associated with visible tidelines and convergences
  3. There is a higher density of floating derelict fishing gear associated with visible tidelines and convergences
  4. The Western Maine Coastal Current has a high density of floating derelict fishing gear
Rozalia Project is planning another expedition in 2012 to conduct neuston net trawls in tidelines and current convergences of the Western Maine coastal current. We will be working with the Blue Ocean Society of Portsmouth, NH, who have representatives on several whale watching boats. Their observers will contact us with the location of visible tidelines between the Isle of Shoals and Jeffrey's Ledge, allowing us to start mapping their location and size, as well as streamline our locating tidelines on a daily basis to run trawls. We also hope to partner with local draggers, lobstermen and tuna fishermen to provide us with additional realtime tidal data.
Jeffrey's Basin and Ledge are critical whale feeding areas, where a variety of marine mammals are frequently observed surface feeding. These areas of upwelling and current convergences with high densities of monofilament and rope/net fiber may also be locations where there are higher densities of plankton and copepods on which the whale feeds, thus increasing the risk of potentially harmful marine debris ingestion by the whales.
The high density of marine debris in these tidelines makes it feasible to remove. Rozalia Project is in the process of designing a trawl net that removes marine debris, but does not harm the plankton and other organisms that are bi-catch in the neuston net trawl. Our intent is that if results are successful, we will scale this marine debris net up to commercial size, so that fishing boats can be employed to trawl tidelines  for marine debris when they have exceeded fishing quota or due to grounds closure.
Thanks to this study, Rozalia Project is making the removal of marine debris and derelict fishing gear in the vicinity of the Western Maine Coastal Current a priority; for the protection of the oceans on the whole and the whales and marine mammals who call these waters home.

For more information about our work, to secure a berth on American Promise (intern opportunities available) or to support our work going into next season, please give Rachael a call 802-578-6120 or send us an email:

Stay tuned for next Wednesday's report about our side scan sonar survey for the Blue Ocean Society locating derelict fishing gear off the NH seacoast. And please remember to vote for us in the Interlux Waterfront Challenge facebook contest (last day to vote is Friday September 30th: scroll down until you find Rozalia Project and click LIKE right under our description!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Many hands to pick up a lot of trash... the ICC comes to Vermont!

Though we have been doing the vast majority of our work along the (east) New England coast, it was very exciting to come home to VT for some marine debris work right on Lake Champlain on the west coast of New England. Saturday, Rozalia Project headed up Vermont's involvement in the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Clean-up. Vermont was one of only 4 states not to participate last year and that is ridiculous... our lake is huge, spans two countries AND directly connects us to the ocean via two major rivers so we really have no choice but to participate.

And thank goodness we did. It will be very interesting to see what we find next year because this year, we were all shocked at the amount of trash that was picked up within 1/8th of a mile on either side of the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center, our hosts for the afternoon. The reason next year will be telling is that this clean up came on the heels of two brutal disasters for the Champlain Valley and Vermont/Upstate New York. Last spring the lake stayed feet above flood level for over a month destroying waterfront property, docks and more. And of course, just over over two weeks ago, with Hurricane Irene, Vermont had it's worst flooding in nearly 100 years with the Winooksi River, among others, at 23 feet above flood stage. The Winooski drains into the Lake and the destruction caused by Irene had marine debris in the form of people's homes and whole yards  as well as many of the state's roads and bridges washing down our rivers.  

Among the haul, we certainly can attribute the large metal canoe and municipal intake pipe as results of the storm. However, nearly 70 pounds of recycling  and the majority of the 409 pounds in 1,864 pieces of trash looked more careless in nature. We followed close to expected worldwide numbers with our top five items (in numbers of items):
Food wrappers: 293
Cigarettes: 275
Styrofoam pieces: 254
Caps and lids: 217
Plastic bottles: 153

Other finds included the expected cups, cans, glass bottles, tape and plastic sheet as well as the less expected shotgun shells, tires and light bulbs with a bit of the wish-we-didn't-see-it thrown in - syringes (2), condoms (12), diapers (4) and a pair of undergarments. Eew.

As you know, I really love getting and seeing trash taken out of any body of water and I am psyched with the haul. But, a big highlight of the day was the people. There was a college sailing regatta happening at the same time, they were delayed due to lack of wind for much of the afternoon which was great for us. We have to thank all of the sailors who helped especially the Middlebury College Sailing Team. They rocked the clean up bringing back 6 overstuffed bags of trash and recycling plus tires and the intake tube - the whole time looking like they were having fun. My kind of people. I think I might have found an intern or two for next year from that group as well! We also had a great turn out from UVM. Coco, their sailing coach, singlehandedly filled two big bags with trash and kept the data card accurate and we had some more students come down the hill to scour the shore by foot and by kayak. It was a group of 3 UVM students who teamed up with Tom Peterson and his 30' sailboat and crew (Tom joined us on American Promise this summer) to recover the aluminum canoe off the rocks (among other bits of trash and recycling).
One of my favorite parts of the day were the kids. We had a bunch of families come down and the kids worked as hard if not harder than their parents. I LOVE seeing that (and all the kids who stayed for the Trash Bash got t-shirts, I couldn't resist).

As always we are rarely able to do anything alone and this day was no exception. Our first thank you is to everyone who came and helped picking up trash and keeping good record of what they found. I want to thank my friend Marsi Foster for giving up an afternoon at the harvest festival with her family to help me at the registration desk (she was perfect). The Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center were excellent hosts, as always, and a big shout out to Colin for giving us Chris, Bill and the other volunteers when your work was done. Thanks to CSC's efforts, CSWD is going to do a free dumpster pick up to remove the trash from the day. And to Gary Kjellen for cleaning up on South Hero and making the trek to Burlington to drop off his data card and say a few words about the Lake Champlain Committee.

Looking ahead we are psyched and inspired to keep the ball rolling in Vermont. Our mission is marine debris, we are Vermonters and we just had a wake up call that Vermont has no less marine debris than many of the coastal sites we visited.

Stay tuned as we head up additional clean ups this fall and next year's ICC in Vermont will be even bigger and more effective with sits across the state!

Thank you again for a great day and a great start to what I am optimistic will be many bigger, better ICC's and best of all, a much, much cleaner Lake Champlain.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Contest winners! We are dedicating a day of ocean clean-up to...

Andy and Pat Deshaies of Snow Island ME and Ursula King of Wellesley, MA. On our last outing in Portland for the Dodge Morgan celebration and then again for the presentation on Chebeague Island, we had cards for people to enter their names for a day of ocean clean up in their name. Now that the amazing road, power and phone crews of Vermont have reconnected us, we are happy to announce the randomly drawn winners from each event.

This means that on our next Rozalia Project outing on American Promise, we will work even harder on the days assigned to each of our winners and report on our progress. Thank you to everyone who submitted their names to receive our updates and keep in touch with our progress and programs.

A note about Hurricane Irene: We would like to say a big thank you to the Kittery Point Yacht Yard for their care and attention to detail keeping American Promise safe last weekend. When I woke up on Monday morning to find out that Granville was isolated from the rest of the world physically (we only have 3 ways out and all three had large sections of road and whole bridges washed away) as well as verbally (no power, no phone, only have 1 bar of cell coverage on one small part of one road and no internet), it was such a huge relief to hear, through the static of a bad connection, that the boat was 100% fine. I would also like to thank everyone who offered their help (to backpack or mountain bike food in to me, Hickory and Smudge or to bring in a generator, etc.), we are fortunate across the board. Our sympathies are with the people who lost homes and businesses.

The amount of debris caused by and carried around by the flooding here in the middle of Vermont is staggering. It will be interesting to see what we find on the coast as far as hurricane debris goes since all of that water was rushing to the sea. In the case of VT's floods it all headed either to Lake Champlain or out the Connecticut River to Long Island Sound.

We are off for our next Rozalia Project marine debris mission starting this weekend. We will be looking at convergence zones between cold and warm water and inspecting the entire water column to see if we can find areas of increased debris accumulation associated with these boundaries.

We hope you and your families are well after the storm and enjoying Labor Day weekend. Congrats to our winners!