Turning the tide: 5 innovative ways to save marine life

It’s not too late to reverse damage wrought on the world’s marine ecosystems. Vision fishes for the best inventions fighting ocean plastic pollution

Perhaps the world's greatest mysteries lie at the heart of its vast, blue oceans. We marvel at scientist's hypotheses that between 500,000 and five million undiscovered marine species exist in its depths. We try and compute that the earth’s longest mountain range, the Mid-Oceanic ridge system winds from the Arctic to the Atlantic, and is greater than the Andes and Himalayas combined. Astonishing, that more individuals have travelled to the moon than dived into the world's deepest ocean trench.

Sadly for these phenomena, and species such as the endangered blue whale, centuries-old coral and fish such as the orange roughy that lives for up to 200 years, the ocean is not always treated with the special reverence that it deserves.

The statistics are staggering. Plastic pollution is the ocean's biggest enemy, constituting 90 per cent of rubbish floating on its surface which makes up 46,000 pieces per square mile and kills one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals annually. It is difficult to stomach that the largest ocean garbage site in the world – the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Gyre – is twice the size of Texas.

However, there are innovators dedicated to transforming the state of the globe's oceans. Vision picks the most inspiring and effective...

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The world's largest ocean garbage site is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Adidas’ plastic shoes

Parley for the Oceans is where creators, thinkers and leaders come together to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of the oceans.

The group has influenced sportswear giant Adidas to change its eco footprint – literally, partnering with the global brand to create a batch of running shoes with soles made using recycled plastic  from the Maldives.

Synthetic fibres were replaced with yarns made from recycled plastic, and a green wave pattern was also created from recycled gill nets. 

Innovative footwear is typically costly. but Adidas has instead asked consumers to ‘earn’ the shoes by submitting video evidence of their conservation efforts.

The next step? Parley is partnering with urban clothing company G-Star RAW to produce denim made from marine plastic.

Australia’s floating Seabin

A floating Seabin prototype could spell the end of Australia's polluted seas and trouble for its rich marine life and surfing community. 

Australian surfers Pete Ceglinksk and Andrew Turton have developed a Sea Bin to install in marinas to filter litter from the water after crowd sourcing the idea on IndieGoGo. 

The invention is designed for sheltered stretches of water where pollution is most dense, such as marinas, ports and yacht clubs. The floating bin is attached to a water pump that sucks water into its container and separates the rubbish or liquids, such as oil or detergent before filtering the water back into the ocean. The natural fibre catch bag is then emptied of residual rubbish every day.

The pair are also developing a production process to recycle plastics collected from Seabins and to use them to boost local economies.

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There are 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile of the ocean

The fish food six-pack rings

We have all seen the distressing photographs of sea turtles and dolphins miserably struggling to escape plastic six-pack rings.

To solve the problem, Florida’s Saltwater Brewery has designed a set of biodegradable six-pack rings to hold together the 400,000 cans it produces every month - that actually feeds marine life and birds. 

The rings are made from a combination of wheat and barley that are by-products of the brewing process, as an alternative to photo-degradable plastic that take 90 days to dissolve. In the US, about 67bn beer cans are consumed each year.

Ocean Cleanup Project 

Dutch engineering student Boyan Slat has created a 100-kilometre array of floating barriers to clear oceans of waste plastic that accumulate where currents come together.

There are five major gyres which contain millions of pieces of plastic per square kilometre in yhe world, and Slat's solution is 100km of floating, static filters that act as a barrier. 

By acting like an artificial coastline, the filters passively concentrate the plastic by orders of magnitude, 100 per cent powered by natural ocean currents. Instead of using nets, The Ocean Cleanup uses solid screens which catches the floating plastic, but allows sea life to pass underneath the barrier with the current. It is then pushed towards a central collection point, using the currents before being shipped to land and recycled. 

The Whale Alert 2.0 App

Whale Alert is a growing network of non-profit institutions, government agencies, shipping and technology companies focused on reducing lethal ship strikes of whales.

The app suggests alternative routes to mariners and allows users to report whales in distress, to point to marine debris, check regulations and visualise pollution.