Skipper Bill Moreland Fishing For Plastic Garbage On SF Bay

Doug Sovern

'Plastic Patrol' Scours SF Bay For Debris

KCBS Reporter Sails Along In Search of Floating Litter

Doug Sovern
July 23, 2018 - 5:00 am

The United Nations predicts that by 2030, there will be more plastic debris in the ocean than there are fish. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is already twice the size of Texas and three times the size of France, a floating island of litter and trash that can be deadly to marine life.

To keep something similar from forming in San Francisco Bay, the American Sailing Association has enlisted local mariners to troll for trash, picking up any plastic or other litter they see every time they sail.

Aboard the Carita, a 32-foot sailboat owned by the Modern Sailing School and Club in Sausalito, skipper Bill Moreland takes KCBS Radio for a "plastic patrol" ridealong. "Plastic is one of those things that does not disintegrate over time," he says. "So we're going to go out and investigate, and see if we can find any floating plastic and retrieve it, so that none of the sea animals digest it."

Moreland is Operations Director for Modern Sailing, which is part of ASA's "Operation Plastic Pollution Purge."

Moreland guides the boat along the Bay, from Raccoon Strait near Angel Island to "Hurricane Alley," closer to the Golden Gate Bridge. He spots "twigs, leaves, sea grass, there's a log coming up," but sees no plastic, even in the tideline where the water leaving the Bay meets that replenishing it from the ocean.

"I've got my boat hook ready, ready to spear anything we see and get it out of the water," Moreland says.

During this sail, he's unable to pull any debris from the water. But Moreland considers that a good sign. "We were so fortunate that there was no debris, no plastic in the Bay. So in my mind, this mission was a success," he says. 

Moreland notes that twenty years ago, the Bay was cluttered with debris. Now, he says, people have learned their lesson, and are vigilant about not dumping trash and about retrieving what others throw in the water.

"Sailors know we have to respect Mother Nature. We're out here in the elements," says Moreland. "We need to keep our bay clean and safe, for all the animals."