WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue have launched an autonomous marine robot in north Devon in a bid to help clear Ilfracombe harbour of waste. The WasteShark roams through distances of up to 5km of water, capturing up to 60kg of waste at a time, including plastics and microplastics. If used five days a week the WasteShark is likely to collect in excess of 15 tonnes of waste a year, with the plastic recycled to make products.
This is the first time that a WasteShark has been used in the UK, following successful launches in five countries, including South Africa and UAE. Created by RanMarine Technology, the WasteShark is the world’s first marine robot designed specifically to eat waste and collect data. Designed to be harmonious with the environment, as it navigates the water the WasteShark emits no carbon, produces no noise or light pollution, and poses no threat to wildlife.
WWF says that eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the oceans each year, injuring and killing the wildlife that ingests it or become entangled in it. Around 90% of the world’s sea birds have fragments of plastic in their stomachs, while up to 80% of mussels taken from a number of British beaches were found to contain microplastics.
Dr Jenny Oates, UK SEAS Programme Manager at WWF said: “The MPAs in north Devon are home to some of the country’s most incredible coastlines and marine life, but plastic is having a devastating effect on our oceans. The WasteShark will help us fight the rubbish that enters the harbour, snapping it up before the tide takes it out to sea and it ends up threatening wildlife in other precious marine areas.
“There’s no doubt we need to see major systemic change when it comes to single-use plastic. As we strive to get governments and businesses to commit to turning off the plastic tap, there is an important role for innovative technology to remove it from our seas.”
Along with removing waste, the WasteShark can collect important data about the marine environment. In a second phase of the project, WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue will add sensors to the WasteShark to capture information such as water quality (e.g. temperature, acidity and salinity) which will be used to help inform work to improve the state of the marine environment.
Fiona Ball, Head of Responsible Business and Sky Ocean rescue, Sky, commented: “Raising awareness of the pollution being caused by plastic isn’t enough. We need to take action. This is why Sky Ocean Rescue has joined up with WWF to not only increase the amount of ocean protected by MPAs but increase their effectiveness. With innovations like WasteShark we are regenerating the oceans for years to come.”
Picture: Nick Kindon / WWF-UK
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