Sailing towards a plastic-free ocean

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology teamed up to undertake a microplastics research and Ocean Literacy project linked to the Japan-Palau Goodwill Yacht Race—celebrating 25 years of Palau’s independence.
On 29 December 2019, an all-female research team, together with children and their parents from Palau, boarded tall ship ‘Miraie’ and embarked on a 17-day expedition from Yokohama, Japan to Koror, Palau. Their goals was to collect marine plastic pollution data in the western North Pacific Ocean—an area expected to have high density of microplastics that is currently insufficiently surveyed.
They also aimed to educate young people about the impact of human activities on the ocean, and how we can help. Young leaders are the driving force for protecting our ocean and the channels through which individuals, schools and communities can change their consumption habits.
First Newston Net tow in front of Mt Fuji. Photo by Holly Griffin
“International partnership is crucial to tackle marine plastic pollution, as it is transboundary,” said Sanae Chiba, project leader and staff at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. “To collect sufficient data to understand the transportation and fate of plastics in the vast world ocean, use of ships of opportunity and collaboration with scientists and pleasure boat community are becoming important more and more’.
Through the scientific microplastics research, the researchers—Sanae Chiba, Holly Griffin and Yurie Seki—were able to help to fill a gap in knowledge about the status of marine plastic pollution in the western North Pacific. The children were able to learn first-hand about the impact of plastic on people and planet, as well as sustainable alternatives. They took part in a series of interactive learning sessions onboard to understand issues that the ocean is facing beyond plastic pollution, exploring a range of topics including industrial fishing, coral reef ecology, ocean giants and marine protected areas. They also completed a mini-project to design their own ocean-friendly city.
Holly Griffin, from the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, led the onboard Ocean Literacy programme. She said: “the children loved experiencing life on the ship and learning about the issues facing the ocean that we spent 17 days crossing. They fully engaged with the Ocean Literacy programme, retaining a lot of information. They were enthusiastic about learning how they can help to champion the conservation of our ocean.”
About Clean Seas
The United Nations Environment Programme launched the Clean Seas Campaign in 2017 with the goal of galvanizing a global movement to turn the tide on plastic by reducing the use of unnecessary single-use plastics and phasing out intentionally added microplastics. Since then, 60 countries have pledged to do their part improve plastics management through, among other measures, reducing the prevalence of single-use plastics. Learn more about the campaign and how you can help, consider joining the global partnership on marine litter and follow our social media campaign @UNEP on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Chemicals & pollution action
Education & environment
Oceans & seas

Coastal and Marine Ecosystems

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