KITTERY, Maine — Rachael Miller sat before her laptop, pointing to the gray-scale images from their side scan sonar and explaining that the rectangular boxes were lobster traps and parts of a shipwreck.
“When we were in Boston Harbor, there were piles of cans on the bottom,” she said.
Miller and James Lyne have been traveling around the world on the 60-foot cutter trying to rid the waters of debris. Their ship, the American Promise has partnered with the Blue Ocean Society to take part in the Rozalia Project, an effort to track and remove trash from the world’s waters.
They are only in the first stage of the project of tracking debris in the Seacoast.
On Thursday, the crew explained how the remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, and sonar equipment work. As part of a “Trash Bash,” the crew of the American Promise explained to visitors how they have been tracking trash, shipwrecks and lobster traps.
“We really need more of this,” said Zach Scott who attended with his son, Corbin. “The imagery is pretty neat.”
Adding he is not surprised there is that much trash sitting on the bottom of the river, he said he hopes more programs like the Rozalia Project start popping up.
While listening to Miller explain the data, Corbin, 3, checked out the underwater robotic vehicle the crew uses to see what is underwater. It is equipped with a camera, lights, propeller and “hand” to grab items weighing up to 75 pounds underwater.
Miller said they have found some interesting things in their travels, including a handgun they weren’t able to reach and pull up, as well as an “incredibly large” shoe that she believes had to have been custom made.
For the last week, the American Promise has been working with the Blue Ocean Society to detect derelict fishing gear in hopes of removing it in the future. However, for the time being, crews are only collecting data, as they cannot pull any of the fishing gear out of the water, because it’s not their property.
They will have to locate the owners of the gear before they can proceed.
Jennifer Kennedy of the Blue Ocean Society said they will be working with N.H. Fish and Game to locate the owners of the gear to either return it or ask if they can remove and dispose of it for the fishermen.
“People look out at the water and think there is nothing wrong,” she said. “But when you see the videos of what is going on under there, you know there is stuff there that shouldn’t be there.”
Many of the derelict lobster traps continue to catch marine life, but since no one is picking up the gear, animals are dying in the traps or getting filled with trash, she said.
Kennedy said a lot of the man-made items that sit on the bottom not only can harm marine life that could eat or be injured by it, but also can cause problems for fishermen. Trash can snag gear and break ropes, thus costing fishermen money to replace their traps and gear.
At a beach cleanup, she and some volunteers witnessed a gull with a plastic bag on its leg being pulled into the ocean from the weight of the bag being filled by water. They were unable to save it.
“It was a really simple choice whether the person who left it could have thrown out their plastic bag in the water or the garbage bin,” she said.
Mike Toepfer with the UNH Cooperative Extension has been working with the Blue Ocean Society and said he hopes this project will enlighten people on the debris that is sitting on the bottom of the oceans, rivers and lakes.
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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.