WWF has partnered with Sky Ocean Rescue to launch an autonomous marine robot that will be used to clear the North Devon Ilfracombe harbour of waste. The vehicle is known as The WasteShark and will travel up to 5 kilometres in the water where it will scoop up pollutants such as oils, microplastics and plastics. If WasteShark is used five days every week it has the ability to scoop up more than 15 tonnes of waster every year and the plastic it collects can be recycled.
This is the first time an autonomous robot is being used in the UK, though WasteShark has been successfully deployed in five countries. The robot was developed and built by RanMarine Technology and is the first autonomous marine robot with the capability to consume waste and collect data. The robot has been designed not to impact the environment as is navigates its way through the water. It emits zero carbon, noise or light pollution and does not pose any threat to wildlife.
Plastic pollution is catastrophic on wildlife
Eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into the ocean every year and that is nothing short of catastrophic for wildlife. 90 per cent of the planet’s seabirds have plastic pieces contained in their stomachs. The work WWF is doing with Sky Ocean will improve the health of the seas around the UK. This also includes Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) which despite their official designation as being environmentally important faces a number of threats from issues such as plastic pollution.
Marine Protected Area
Ilfracombe Harbour is located within an MPA that serves as home to a diverse range of species and boasts some of the most beautiful and incredible wildlife in the UK. This includes grey seals, pink sea fan corals. The effort to collect all the waste that pollutes the harbour will help prevent the immediate area from being damaged and being taken out to sea which would pose a threat to the important wildlife in the surrounding MPA’s.
The WasteShark has the ability to do its job for up to eight hours on a single charge. It runs on GPS which allows it to navigate towards hotspots where waste collects and operators can program and monitor its path remotely. Not only does the autonomous robot remove waste, but the WasteShark is able to collect important data about the marine environment.