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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Friday, August 10, 2018: Weather often aligns with its synonym whether, as in whether or not the weather will happen

Clouds above the California wildfires. This is at 30k feet (9 km). That's the sunset on the horizon.

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Here's a look at some of those suffocated Florida groupers I had mentioned ... 

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Friday, August 10, 2018: Weather often aligns with its synonym whether, as in whether or not the weather will happen as forecast. Take you pock this weekend as a seemingly highly unsettled stretch pulls into town, weather-wise: Maybe storms, maybe clouds, maybe sun, maybe astronomical flooding, maybe you-name-it. This is the type forecast I suggest the famed wait-and-watch method, i.e. if you’re about to head out fishing, you wait until departure time and do a look-about -- or, for you techies, check one of those newfangled smartphone apps that tell you what the weather will be like in exactly the next few minutes or in the next hour. Such instant insights should be seen as a huge advance from the old wet a finger and put it up to the wind for guidance days. It’s even superior to the new (but already aging) radar maps -- which, by the way, are always running about 15 minutes behind the real world. The insta=weather apps compensate for any radar lag times, forecast in doubly real time … almost like looking across the bay. Here’s a website read on one such minute-by-minute forecasting app: https://www.inc.com/magazine/201307/eric-markowitz/this-app-predict...

I’m as much as suggesting you make your plans as you please then tweak them as the sky dictates. In other words, screw undecisively whining, “Ohhhhhhhhhhh it might rain …” Just ready yourself for a fun weekend and, as Marines say, be ready to “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.”  Of course, even with that militantly said, all bets are off when the sparks fly. I’m talking massive sky sparks, like cloud-to-ground lightning. Then, it's … retreat! If you care to maintain the Marine them, don't call it retreating, call it, “advancing in another direction.” Whatever, get the hell out of bolt range, remembering that bolts can range far and wide in these parts. I can’t give up the ghost of that incident on Island Beach Park when two folks on the beach were killed by lightning with the sun shining brightly ... but a nasty storm cell over Barnegat Light, a solid five miles or more away from the impact point. And, yes, I’m a broken record when it comes to warning about bolts. I’ve seen too many hits on beachgoers, surfers and fishermen over the years.

Fishing-wise, I’m getting some reports of decent showings of small bass -- apparently schooled up. This time of year it’s more likely they’re simply commingling while feeding in prime forage zones, more than the bass displaying migratory schooling behavior, which is still many weeks away.

Night fishing remains sharky, though far from a sure-thing bite. 

Rays are in the surf and can be sight fished ... if you're into that sorta thing. 

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Jim Hutchinson Sr. 

Can you say hot? Despite the heat inland, the captains of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association are finding beautiful conditions once they clear the inlet on their fishing trips. The water is clean, the seas have been calm, and the temperatures are much more comfortable than onshore. When you throw in some nice catches of fish, It adds up to ideal fishing conditions. 

As an example, the “StarFish with Captain Carl Sheppard along with mates Marlyn Graham and Max Goldman had a group of avid anglers out on their second trip of the year. According to Max, they “threw back tons of fluke” while boating six fluke up to 23-inches. The ocean temperatures were a balmy 74-degrees with the calm breezes making for long slow drifts. 

There is action offshore also. Captain Ray Lopez had the Senker group out on the “Miss Liane” for a non-stop day of tuna fishing about 50 miles offshore. The crew left the dock at 2am and began trolling early in the morning. The fish cooperated as the group put four yellowfin tuna in the box ranging from 30 to over 40-pounds. The offshore action is as hot as the weather. 

Additional information on the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association can be found at www.BHCFA.net.

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Student beat the teacher today and put the pool fish in the cooler.... I’m never gonna hear the end of it.
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Bob Misak

A little note to the Big White sportfishing vessel that just came in at 11 am and headed towards Viking village....that guy you dumped outta that kayak was 60 years old....and you kept going...if I could find you right now, I’d hand your ass to ya, you POS.
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Todd is at it again ... and holding the tail far from the "sting" 

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Hi Flier Bluefin, Yellowfin, Inshore Sharking
hiflierfishing@verizon.net
We have been spending all of our time fishing in the ocean. Sunday we ran offshore about 60 miles to the southeast. We stumbled on a slick with chick birds hitting it. Great readings. Set up on the anchor and started chunking. Put out a few rods with bait and handed Matt Tebaldi a jigging rod with one of my favorite jigs. He and his wife Tess, from Manahawkin NJ were on their first ever offshore trip. After about 10 minutes of jigging, Matt said “I got something “. It was apparent to me that it wasn’t a tuna,  but nonetheless, let’s see what you got. He reeled in a 16 inch Illex squid. Nasty looking creature. I stuck a hook in him and put him out at 50 feet under a balloon. Five minutes later the reel was screaming. After a long fight on medium light drag, as we only had him on 40 lb flouro leader, Matt and Tess tag teamed an 80 lb bluefin tuna. Put him in the box and got a call from Brian Ewan on the Dora Lee that the troll bite was going off only six miles from where we were. We ran over, put out the spread and trolled two nice 40 and 50 class yellowfins. Here’s a video clip of Matt on one of those trolled fish: https://youtu.be/5R7LLc_4Tyc
 
Returned the next day (Mon) and added a pair of yellowfin in the 20 to 30 lb class amongst a huge pod of whales and porpoise. 
Fished the last two days trolling Barnegat Ridge and sharking. Both days we clobbered the sharks. Today (Thurs) I had Michael Fuhrman of Cherry Hill, Steve Karl of Loveladies, and Erin Foose of Altoona, PA on board. We had a bunch of sharks, mostly 3 to 4 foot Atlantic Sharpnose but Steve brought a 200 lb class Dusky Shark to the Boat and a little while later Erin bested a 120 pound Dusky just four miles off the beach. Here’s a video clip of Erin and her Dusky: https://youtu.be/hfRKiRQv52E The Ridge has been giving up bonita, spanish and king mackerel.
 
We are available for Open Boat or Charter this Sat, Sun, and Mon, August 11, 12, and 13. Inshore sharking and trolling for bonita and spanish mackeral at Barnegat Ridge. We can do both in the same trip. If they relax the thunderstorm predictions for any of these three days we can also make the 60 mile run to the tuna grounds.  The Ridge/Shark combo trips are 6AM to 1PM, $175 person, 4 people max. The mid range tuna trips are 3AM to 5PM, $350 person, 4 people max. All fish are shared on all trips. Call me to book a spot on any of these trips. You can always try us right up until our departure time to see if we have a spot.
 
Pics: Matt Tebaldi with 50 lb Yellowfin Tuna and Tess Tebaldi with 80 lb Bluefin

Capt Dave DeGennaro
Hi Flier Sportfishing 
732.330.5674 cell
hiflier.com


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(In case you haven't seen this SandPaper column, I wrote this flood segment to offer personal insights ... and garner comments. Please keep in mind that there are absolutely NO absolutes ... as in NONE. How the planetary warming scenario might play out here and worldwide is guesswork -- serious guesswork but guesswork nonetheless. If the early guesses at the manifestation of "global warming" have shown us anything, it is the impossibility of translating short-term meteorologic variances into geologically-significance planetary changes. The causes of enhanced flooding on LBI are as nebulous as climate change itself. However, the interpretations of this flooding are emblematic of how established trains of thought readily jump on any available track ... to forward personal trains of thought. Keeping this metaphor alive, time and true research, in the long run, will very likely derail the majority of knee-jerk theoretical philosophies. Less idealistically, the practicality of Island raising, mega-bulkheading, jettying pristine inlets or coastal abandonment won’t hold water until far more data – or massive fundings – enter the picture. Indeed, it’s absolutely complicated. Just to show how science itself is adding to the confusion and uncertainty: https://science.nasa.gov/.../science-at.../2004/05mar_arctic)

SOUTH-END NOTION: I attended a meeting of the Island’s joint taxpayers. (See related story this issue.) It tentatively focused on our increasingly chronic roadway and back bay nuisance flooding. That’s the traffic-boggling type of flooding, when we’re contending with expanses of thigh-deep water, but not deep enough to have those waters invite themselves into house and home. While nuisance flooding isn’t a home breaker, it has been known to readily and expensively consume parked cars.

The meeting’s speakers were Stockton’s Stewart Farrell and Kimberly McKenna. They made a very fine presentation, beginning with an overview of where the Island had once been, geographically, and where it sits now – which is often a bit under the weather.

COMPLEX FLOODING: The meeting’s speakers were at an understandable loss when attendants somewhat angrily demanded they offer a cure for LBI’s flooding afflictions. I could have easily jumped up and pointed out that there is absolutely no easy fix. I implicitly know this. But, I just sat and sorta smiled instead.

I even sat and sorta smiled through some cringe-worthy flood-fighting suggestions loosed by those within the room, including the building of a dike – or was it a moat? – around the entire Island.

Another cringy comment, one that garnered some mild in-room support, was the idea of building west-facing bayside sand barriers, vis-à-vis frontbeach replenishments. It was pointed out that millions are being spent on beach fixes while the most love the Island’s bayside sector has garnered is a lone state-of-the-bay study … that has yet to be completed. I inwardly pondered the highly gerund point that likely 95 percent of the money-wielding visitors to LBI are here for the beach. I just sat and sorta smiled instead.

Along somewhat similar bayside buttressing lines, Farrell told of a New Jersey shore town now requiring the doubling of bayside bulkheading heights, a bulkhead replenishment with a touch of jolly old Holland. It’s not the worst raise-high-the-bulkhead-beams theory, providing everyone onboard understands the Inca concept of tightly contiguous. Should just one bulkhead not be perfectly in-system, there’s no Dutch boy finger large enough to stop the seepage. Such a bulkhead heightening effort also needs to abide by the idea of ad infinitum. It’s fine to have a watertight bulkhead bay barrier providing there are no ends, you know, for the bay water to simply end around – leaving said shore town with enough floodwater trapped landside by the bulkheads to become a stagnant water park.

Anyhow, it’s herein that I choose to stand up, virtually, and unfurl my belief that the Island’s onslaught of flooding, primarily from the Causeway south, is an imperfect storm … of land compression, overwrought sewer infrastructure and, possibly first and foremost, the slow failure of Little Egg Inlet.

GOING DOWN: With each passing vehicle, our beloved Island’s above-water terrain is being compressed into flood-prone compactness. Billions of tons worth of traffic have literally compressed many Island points to where, as one person at the meeting put it, “Even when a cloud passes over, it floods!”

Don’t balk at this sinking-surface concept, especially regarding the Boulevard. The weighing under of sandy shoreline communities is now being documented within other heavily populated coastal communities.

I’ll herein offer a novel compaction notion that the flooding itself issues monumentally weighty press-downs. Ponder point: One inch of rain ponding atop one acre of land weighs 113.31 tons. That’s just one inch! We frequently get three feet of floodwater, be it from wham-bam downpours or over-the-banks (and up the sewers) way-high tides. That’s 36 inches times 113 tons … crushingly sitting there for hours on end. You do the heavy math while I re-propose that every flood event is likely contributing to the further compressing of LBI’s low points. Flooding begets more flooding – and yet further compacting.

Worrisomely, compaction has a way of fanning out. We now have more and more flood-prone zones, as indicated by at-the-ready red barrels for closing off inundated lanes of the Boulevard.

This might be a good place to become unproductively annoying by pointing out that the rampant swapping out of absorbent grass for cold hard gravel on Island yards greatly enhances runoff. If flooding has shown us anything, it’s that runoff is ruinous. Yes, gravelly yards might well be a significant factor in sudden flooding … but I won’t overly go there, knowing the gravel will surely be staying -- you know, for the sake of easy, part-time yard care. Hey, rabbits, robins and earthworms can be so unsavory.

PIPES UNDER PRESSURE TO PERFORM: Now, onward to where our flood-related exasperation should be indirectly directed: Barnegat Bay, after all, it's the source of all flooding evil. I wonder how much gravel it would take to just fill it in.

Back to basics, floodwaters on LBI can only drain to the west. To accommodate the drainage, we’ve nobly tried to build a westward-aiming sewer outlet system, replete with big-ass pipes issuing street waters into the bay. In their defense, our system’s pipes really do their hard-pressed best to drain off wicked amounts of water. Those recent insta-deluges were rather decently directed bayward within a few hours, but not before utterly infuriating motorists and many a business owner.

Staying focused on the sewer systems, there’s no sidestepping the turncoat fact those same pipes gladly escort massive influxes of high tide bay water onto our streets, sometimes in catastrophic amounts. We’ve all seen the bay silently snaking out of the sewer grates and into the gutters … where they stop, nobody knows.

Island towns are fairly constantly trying to upgrade their sewer-system infrastructure. Along with wider and stronger piping, some outflow pipes are being equipped with one-way purging devices. In theory, water travels bayward through the pipe’s valve mechanism, then, flaps prevent water from backwashing. It’s a nice concept in, say, purgeable diving masks. However, so much litter and garbage washes into the Island’s sewer systems that the valves become fouled, opening the door to the anacondas of street flooding.

A more radical floodwater ameliorating concept, one being tried in Ship Bottom, is the use of power pumps. They literally suck up floodwater and shoot it into the bay. The method is heavily used in New Orleans, where a system of 24 pumping stations are constantly at the ready to blow away the Big Easy’s regularly scheduled torrential rains. I’ll limb out by mildly insinuating it just might work here, mainly for downpour flooding and entry-level tidal flooding … providing a coordinated, Island-wide pumping station system could be agreed upon by all LBI municipalities. I’ll leave it at that.

WHY WE FLOOD, REALLY: I’m going on 20 years of reporting that Barnegat Bay is shallowing, usually a very unhurried and natural process, mind you. Unnaturally, B Bay’s current shallowing is being fast-tracked by mankind’s over nutrification of its waters from runoff rich in fertilizers, organic waste and petrochemicals, all of which encourage rampant algae growth. When the likes of a “brown tide” algal bloom dies off, gazillions of tiny algae corpses drift downward, stacking up as bay-bottom detritus. This hikes up the bay bottom. Even otherwise beneficial forms of subaquatic vegetation can grow crazily when mankind inadvertently over feeds them. That material also bottoms out when decaying, post season.

Long and short of it, as we speak, the bay holds less and less water, meaning it takes to the streets faster than it did in deeper-bay days.

During the LBI Joint Taxpayer Associations meeting, bay shallowing was brought up, sparking thoughts about dredging the entire bay. Prof. Farrell quickly and duly questioned back, “Where are you going to put the dredge materials?”

Indeed. We all know the serious challenge of trying to relocate even small amounts of dredge material. An entire bay’s worth? If China doesn’t want it, we’re clean outta luck.

There’s one other, not-so-minor bay-dredging matter. To manually deepen the bay, we’d simultaneously be annihilating a fairly famed marine environment, one so sensitive and highly monitored that just the small portion of bay impacted by the ongoing Causeway rebuild couldn’t be done without the NJ Department of Transportation going through a dizzying permit process with NJ Department of Environmental Protection – with guarantees to restore other needy areas of the bay to compensate for even temporarily disturbing the bay bottom near the bridges.

Conservationists, myself included, need not be riled. Bay-wide dredging is not happening – no way, no how.

As a consolation prize, there’s a distant possibility that the long-neglected federal Intracoastal Waterway could be dredged. That’s a tad of deepening, without whacking the marine ecosystem. Might that help to lessen flooding? I’ll prevaricatingly say it would definitely help boating.

AN INADEQUATE INLET: It’s not a scientific stretch to say chronic flooding on LBI, south of the Causeway, stems from a deteriorating Little Egg Inlet. In fact, in this instance, I’ll focus on Little Egg Outlet.

Lower Barnegat Bay’s tidal exchange capacities have been petering out. The inlet is barely keeping its head above water in terms of fulfilling its obligation to regularly and tidally evacuate waters from lower Barnegat Bay. It is most noticeably lacking when compared to the dynamic water exchange on the Island’s north end bayside, where jettied and readied Barnegat Inlet handles tidal flow duties like a champ. I’m betting its dynamics can easily compensate for any bay shallowing. It might even slow eutrophication through its powerful daily water exchanges, which can reach right down to the bay bottom.

Back to the lagging Little Egg Inlet, matters thereabouts are being made worse by the shoaling of bayside channels just to its north, off Holgate. That shallowing is further pinching off what remains of the north/south water flow. I’ll spell it out by alleging that the reducing of LEI’s outgoing water flow is part and parcel to bayside flooding, even many miles away.

But this is yet another root problem that won’t be going anywhere soon.

There is absolutely no chance of manually assisting the inlet’s water flow through the most common and relatively effective method known: jettying the sucker – followed by sucking sand out of the jettied inlet on a highly regular basis – you know, Barney-style. Oh, back off! I’m not proposing such a move whatsoever. I’m just here to lay all the flood cards on the table – to let the chips float where they may. In this case, you can safely bet that flooding, as we now know it will likely carry on, albeit transferred a bit with planned road raisings and repaving with a more pronounced crowning.

To prevent parting on a flooded-out parting note, I will again mildly hype the pump station concept. While it won’t stand a hell’s snowball chance of pumping away a “big one,” it could very likely work in greatly reducing short-term nuisance flooding, from summer downpours or even winter road-barrel high tides

Fears That Escaped Salmon Could 'Pollute' Wild Stocks on Newfoundland's South Coast


SEAFOODNEWS.COM [CBC News] - August 9, 2018

Atlantic Salmon Federation says public should have been told about escape earlier.

The escape of thousands of farmed salmon on the south coast of Newfoundland is a significant concern, as is the lack of public notification about the incident, the Atlantic Salmon Federation says.

Cooke Aquaculture confirmed Monday that over the course of four days last week between 2,000 and 3,000 salmon escaped from the company's fish farm in Hermitage Bay.

The company said it alerted the province's department of Fisheries and Land Resources, as well as the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as soon as it saw the breech.

But the public wasn't made aware of the escaped fish until locals began noticing farmed salmon in the ocean, Atlantic Salmon Federation coordinator Steve Sutton told CBC Radio's The Broadcast.

"It raises the question of how many times have other escapes happened where nobody has seen the fish and nobody knows the difference," Sutton said.

"This is a public resource, public waters. They should be required to report these things to the public as soon as they have the information."

Cooke, DFO attempting to recapture fish

Cooke Aquaculture said it is working with DFO to recapture the escaped salmon and has three nets out at different locations around the farm site. DFO confirmed that its officers have spotted farmed salmon in the wild and are working with the company to recapture the fish.

Recapturing those fish, especially days after they escaped, is "virtually impossible," Sutton said.

"If fish didn't move they wouldn't need to be in cages in the first place," he said.

"So those fish, most of them have dispersed who knows where."

The primary concern is that the escaped salmon will mate with wild salmon, which Sutton said will "pollute the genetics" and harm a salmon population already assessed as threatened.

"They make the wild fish, the offspring of those fish, less adapted to the local environment," he said.

Interbreeding has already happened between wild and farmed salmon in the province. A 2016 Department of Fisheries and Oceans study found that farmed salmon had mated with wild salmon in 17 of the 18 rivers surveyed on the island's south coast.

"This is just what that population on the south coast doesn't need at this time," Sutton said.

Escape caused by human error
The escape of the fish was the result of human error, according to Joel Richardson, Cooke Aquaculture's vice president of public relations.

Nets were being repaired, and rope came undone in two places on a net extension installed last week, Richardson told The Broadcast on Tuesday.

The result was two holes in the net, about three-to-five feet long, through which the farmed fish escaped.

There are financial consequences to losing fish, but Sutton believes there should be additional penalties to create incentive for aquaculture companies to ensure fish are in their cages.

He pointed to a case in Washington in the United States, where 250,000 salmon escaped a Cooke Aquaculture farm. The state is now moving away from aquaculture.

"That's not likely to happen in Newfoundland, but at least we're seeing other jurisdictions take steps to make sure there are consequences for companies when they lose fish, whether it's through human error or otherwise," Sutton said.

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Editorial: Ocean-Based Salmon Farms Deeply Misunderstood

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Vancouver Province] by John Paul Fraser - August 10, 2018

John Paul Fraser is the new executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association.

I have an admission to make. I had doubts when I was first approached about becoming a candidate for the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association's new executive director.

I have seen the media stories about the industry and, frankly, didn't know much about it other than some of the negative impressions that the articles left.

But as I started looking a little deeper, it did not take long for my perspective to radically shift, and for me to start becoming passionate about salmon farming in B.C. In just a few weeks I have come to know it is a really important industry, but deeply misunderstood.

I did not know that almost three-quarters of the salmon B.C. harvests each year comes from ocean-based farms. Or that the industry supports thousands of families living in B.C.'s coastal communities with good-paying, steady jobs. A lot of those jobs are held by young, local First Nations people who are deeply connected to the environment, working in the communities in which they grew up.

Perhaps most clearly, I learned salmon farming is one of our province's green industries, raising a sustainable product with minimal environmental impact because they have effectively addressed every issue that has been raised. It has done the hard work required to evolve, to get better, greener, more responsible.

Meeting with the people who raise these fish I have been struck by how deeply they understand that wild salmon come first and that they must play a critical role in protecting wild populations: by operating responsibly and using the most innovative techniques, by supporting and acting on independent science, and by giving consumers a local and healthy alternative when making their meal choices.

I was struck by how passionate they are about providing a healthy, sustainable food.

I learned that in B.C. fish farming is the most regulated industry in the agricultural sector, and our farmers committed to achieving the world's most stringent third-party environmental and social standards certification.

I also learned that the UN itself is a proponent of aquaculture because the human race needs the food fish that farming produces. Today, more than half of the fish we consume globally comes from farms, and the UN just issued a report predicting that will grow to two-thirds in just the next 12 years.

Wild fish populations here and around the world are under pressure from over-fishing and climate change. Wild fish are an important food, but eating too much of it only puts them under more pressure, so if we want to eat fish responsibly we need to farm it. B.C. can play a key role in that.

Raising more salmon on land to complement sustainable oceanbased farming is part of the answer - but moving all our fish on land is not. Raising large numbers of fish on land hasn't yet been accomplished anywhere in the world, and trying to make that move would have significant environmental consequences.

Fish raised in big ocean pens swim in natural ocean currents, keeping them healthy and happy. Replicating that natural environment in concrete tanks would require huge amounts of electricity, increasing greenhouse-gas emissions.

It would also require us to pave over huge tracts of land - about 159 square kilometres, approximately the size of 28,000 Canadian football fields, to bring all the salmon being farmed in Canada on land.

We need to responsibly consider consequences like this before we latch on to a solution in search of a problem that doesn't exist.

Our opportunity is in front of us - to raise fish off our coast - responsibly, sustainably, and in consultation and growing partnership with First Nations and other communities.

The opportunity to correct the misunderstandings about this important industry and ensure it takes its rightful place along products such as wine, skiing, timber, and technology as part of British Columbians'identity drew me to this role.

My first priority in this role will be to earn the public's trust. I know there is a lot of work to do on that front, and I'm passionate about getting started.

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Ocean Cleanup Project to Use 2,000 Ft Long Device Meant to Collect Tons of Garbage

 

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Statesman Journal] by Elizabeth Weise - August 10, 2018

On Sept. 8, an ungainly, 2,000-foot-long contraption will steam under the Golden Gate Bridge in what's either a brilliant quest or a fool's errand.

Dubbed the Ocean Cleanup Project, this giant sea sieve consists of pipes that float at the surface of the water with netting below, corralling trash in the center of a U-shaped design.

The purpose of this bizarre gizmo is as laudable as it is head-scratching: to collect millions of tons of garbage from what's known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which can harm and even kill whales, dolphins, seals, fish and turtles that consume it or become entangled in it, according to researchers at Britain's University of Plymouth.

The project is the expensive, untried brainchild of a 23-year-old Dutch college dropout named Boyan Slat, who was so disgusted by the plastic waste he encountered diving off Greece as a teen that he has devoted his life to cleaning up the mess.

Along with detractors who want to prioritize halting the flow of plastics into the ocean, the Dutch nonprofit gathered support from several foundations and philanthropists, including billionaire Salesforce founder Marc Benioff. In 2017, the Ocean Cleanup Project received $5.9 million in donations and reported reserves from donations in previous years of $17 million.

How it works

The Ocean Cleanup Project's passive system involves a floating series of connected pipes the length of five football fields that float at the surface of the ocean. Each closed pipe is 4 feet in diameter. Below these hang a 9-foot net skirt.

The system moves more slowly than the water, allowing the currents and waves to push trash into its center to collect it. Floating particles are captured by the net while the push of water against the net propels fish and other marine life under and beyond.

The system is fitted with solar-powered lights and anticollision systems to keep any stray ships from running into it, along with cameras, sensors and satellites that allow it to communicate with its creators.

For the most part the system will operate on its own, though a few engineers will remain on a nearby ship to observe. Periodically a garbage ship will be sent out to scoop up the collected trash and transport it to shore, where it will be recycled.

Misguided focus

Marine biologists who study the problem say at this point things are so bad that it's worth a shot.

"I applaud the efforts to remove plastics – clearly any piece of debris cleared from the ocean is helpful," said Rolf Halden, a professor of environmental health engineering at Arizona State University.

But he added a caveat, namely that there's not much point to cleaning up the mess unless we also stop the tons of plastic entering the oceans each day. "If you allow the doors to be open during a sand storm while you're vacuuming, you won't get very far," Halden said.

And that gets at the heart of some of the criticism.

Stopping plastics from making their way into the oceans "should be the focus of 95 percent of our current effort, with the remaining 5 percent on clean up," said Richard Thompson, who heads the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom.

"If we consider cleanup to be a center stage solution, then we accept it is OK to contaminate the oceans and that our children and our children's children will continue to clean up the mess," he said.

Another concern is that the project only targets plastic pollution floating at the top of the ocean, although researchers have found microplastics from the waves all the way down to the sea floor.

"They're not all buoyant. Some sink, some remain floating at different levels based on their density and the water pressure," said Charles Rolsky, a Ph.D. researcher who studies ocean plastic pollution at Arizona State University.

There's also the possibility that the contraption might break up in storms and simply make more plastic trash.

"The ocean is strong and powerful and likes to rip things up," said Miriam Goldstein, director of ocean policy at the Center for American Progress and an oceanographer who together with physical oceanographer Kim Martini has been publishing critiques of the project.

The foundation – which openly refers to itself as a "moon shot project" – responds that cleanups are an important part of the story.

"The current plastic pollution will not go away by itself," spokesman Rick van Holst Pellekaan told USA TODAY in an email.

To deal with the baseline problem, he said the project is considering spinoff systems for coastal areas and rivers that would intercept plastic before it reaches the ocean.

There's a lot to be stopped. As much as 9.5 million tons of trash is deposited into the ocean each year, according to a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Plastic is different than other trash because it never decomposes. While it breaks down into smaller and smaller parts called microplastics, they never become bioavailable, meaning they can never provide nourishment to marine life.

The biggest sources today are countries that have rapidly developing consumer economies but whose waste management practices haven't caught up, often in Asia.

"They simply don't have the systems in place to deal with this nondegradable material," Goldstein said.

Discovering the Patch

First described in 1988, ocean-borne trash patches such as the Pacific one consist of a huge concentration of garbage, mostly made up of plastics. Due to circulating ocean currents called gyres (something like slow-moving whirlpools) they accumulate floating trash in areas hundreds of miles across. There are five gyres worldwide, according to the National Ocean Service.

About 70 percent of the litter in these patches is made up of plastic, according to a British study published last year, with close to 50 percent made up of discarded fishing nets, a study published by the Ocean Cleanup Project found earlier this year.

It was cleaning up these convergence zones that obsessed Slat after his high school diving experience. He eventually presented a TED talk on some of his ideas after he graduated from high school in 2013.

That talk went viral, a crowdfunding project to raise money to implement a cleanup began, and Slat ended up dropping out of the aerospace engineering department at Delft University to focus on the cleanup.

Fast forward five years, and a team of international engineers and scientists who have been working to build the cleanup system across the bay from San Francisco are weeks away from launch.

The plan

The project's first cleanup system is scheduled to be towed out to a spot 240 nautical miles off the U.S. coast on Sept. 8, from a dock in Alameda, California, where it's being built. It will spend between 40 and 60 days there for real-world testing.

The event will be live-streamed online, and the nonprofit is also welcoming supporters to come see it in person as it sets off on its maiden voyage.

If it performs well, the system will then be towed out a further 960 miles to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between California and Hawaii.

The goal is to deploy 60 such systems by 2020, which the group believes will clean up 50 percent of the garbage in the garbage patch in five years time.

While the scientists who study ocean plastic pollution aren't convinced this will fix the problem, it might help bring the problem more into the public eye. In Rolskly's opinion, there's just one good thing about plastic pollution – it's one of the few forms of pollution you can see with the naked eye, which may in the end be what helps end it.

"It's really repellant," he said. "It triggers the right emotions to get the political will to implement change."

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