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5 Gyres Coral Triangle Expedition, Updates from Asia

To continue studying the impact of plastic in our oceans, the 18th 5 Gyres Coral Triangle Expedition was recently undertaken. They sailed over 700 nautical miles between Komodo National Park and Lombok Island, through Indonesia’s Coral Triangle. In 16 days they collected 42 microplastic samples in surface waters using a manta trawl, did 16 beach clean ups and three mangrove clean ups removing over 900 pounds of plastic trash. Analysis done on one beach showed plastic pollution levels of over 350 pieces of plastic per square meter of sand. Representatives from the NGOs in the area also joined the 5 Gyres expedition team to learn and train on citizen science protocols.

Data collected on this Expedition will be incorporated into 5 Gyres global dataset of microplastics. The dataset will be used in the update of 5 Gyres’ Global Estimate of Marine Plastic Pollution study. In keeping with the 5 Gyres “science to solutions” model, they are working towards a better understanding of the global scope and trends related to ocean plastic pollution. This research will help us all monitor the efficacy of upstream solutions over time.

Per the 5 Gyres overview,

This Expedition is produced in partnership with the Oceanic Society. Their mission is to conserve marine wildlife and habitats by deepening the connections between people and nature.
Along the route, the voyage will overnight at a variety of small islands including Lombok, Satonda, Moya and Sangeang. A highlight is Komodo National Park, a collection of rugged volcanic islands located in Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands. In addition to collecting valuable near-shore data, guests will explore lush tropical forests, visit world-renowned cultural sites, and snorkel through the cobalt blue waters and stunning coral reefs that provide unique marine microhabitats to invertebrates and reef fish.

Plaine Products was proud to supply members of the expedition with Plastic-Free travel size shampoo and conditioner. Our aluminum bottles helped to ensure they were not contributing to the plastic problem on their journey. As sponsors of 5 Gyres Coral Triangle Expedition we’ve been receiving exciting updates that we wanted to share.

5 Gyres Coral Triangle Expedition Updates from the field:

  • 5 Gyres just leaving the Komodo Island where the Komodo dragons are known to eat their young. They live on an island rich in wild life ranging from island deer, wild boar, and viper snakes. What they didn’t expect to find is a pile of burning plastic. The locals here are dealing with plastic pollution the best way they know how.
  • Sangeang, Indonesia. A small island with an active volcano and a tiny village of people who live by building cargo ships in the traditional style by hand and weaving sarongs by loom. The children immediately took to our beach cleanup, grabbing the bags and making a game of how much they could each collect. When asked about what they had learned about plastic later, they said “we should avoid plastic because it’s bad for our health.” One of our crew gave the kids her Klean Kanteen with Lifestraw attachment. It will allow them to filter the fresh water they dig from beneath the black sand.
  • We spent time trawling in crystal clear waters under an active volcano off of an island where no one lives. Do you think we found any plastic?Preliminary trawl observations indicate little plastic in 4th set. Plentiful amounts found on all beaches.
  • Banta Island, manta ray snorkel and dive, but sadly lots of us found tons of trash. Hard to imagine so remote and distant from living areas.
  • While our ocean samples were fairly light on plastic—which isn’t surprising as this is the dry season so no heavy rains are transporting plastic waste from land sources into the ocean—we stuffed 16 bags with plastic trash during our first beach clean-up on Padar Island.
  • What was particularly poignant about being in Southeast Asia was being able to collaborate in person with our local partners. As part of the Asia Pacific Action Against Plastic Pollution we’re working with local NGOs focused on zero waste projects and providing trash collection at the community level both in Indonesia and also in the Philippines.
  • During the expedition a series of devastating earthquakes struck Indonesia. While none of our crew were injured we were deeply saddened by the terrible loss of life and huge amount of destruction these massive quakes have caused. Our hearts go out to the people of Indonesia.

Read more about the 5 Gyres Coral Triangle Expedition and what you can do to help on the 5 Gyres site.


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