Technologies and initiatives fighting for oceans and rivers

About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all of Earth’s water. It is no exaggeration to say how without water, the Earth would be a dead planet. 

Here are the most promising technologies and initiatives battling the pollution and demise of ocean and river life as we know it. 

The Ocean Cleanup  

Dutch inventor Boyan Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup at the age of 18, in  2013. For seven years The Ocean Cleanup’s team consisting of more than 90  engineers has been working hard on an ocean cleaning device known as System 001/B. In October 2019 the company reported its first major success when it successfully captured and removed plastic and debris ranging from large cartons, crates, and abandoned fishing gear from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. To the developers’ surprise, the device managed to capture even microplastics which tend to fall to the ocean floor rather than float on the surface. 

System 001/B in operation 


The developed system is using the natural forces of the ocean to catch and concentrate the plastic passively. In the Ocean Cleanup press release it is announced how with new learnings and experience derived from the successful deployment of System 001/B, The Ocean Cleanup will now begin to design its next ocean cleanup system, System 002; a full-scale cleanup system that is able to both endure and retain the collected plastic for long periods of time before bringing to land for recycling. 

The Ocean Cleanup is not stopping here. They have also designed and put to use solar-powered barges which can scoop up 50 tons of plastic from rivers each day. 

Interceptor™ 002 in operation


Suzuki’s Microplastic Collecting System for Outboard Motors

A huge amount of marine plastic waste that flows into the ocean has become a significant environmental issue in recent years, and microplastics that are further crushed in the natural environment are concerned to have an impact on ecosystems. To tackle these issues, in October 2020 Suzuki announced the development of a Micro-Plastic Collecting Device that can be equipped to outboard motors. By installing this device to outboard motors, microplastics near the water surface can be collected simply by running the boat.

After the announcement, monitoring surveys were conducted in 14 countries, including Japan, the United States, and Europe, and improvements were made to the device. In July 2022, 5 models (DF140BG, DF115BG, DF140B, DF115B, and DF100C) started production with the device as standard equipment.

The installation of this device on outboard motors is one of the three activities of the SUZUKI CLEAN OCEAN PROJECT, which is Suzuki’s commitment to addressing the marine plastics issue.

The Coral Reef Restoration Initiatives 

According to a 2011 World Resources Institute report, 75% of the world’s reefs are under threat from coastal development, overfishing, pollution, and global warming. Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network brought data on how more than 500 million people depend on coral reefs for food, income, coastal protection, and more. The major threat to coral reefs poses mass coral bleaching events. The mass coral bleaching events happen when colorful algae living in the coral reefs tissues are expelled, due to stressful conditions, such as increasingly warmer ocean temperatures, again, due to climate change. Coral gardening or transplanting as an activity fighting the demise of coral reefs is gaining more and more interest, especially among travelers with initiatives where they can help restore coral reefs by supporting coral replanting programs. The idea comes from the work of Dr.  Austin Bowden-Kerby who started ‘coral gardening’ 40 years ago. It began as an experiment where he propagated healthy coral, raising it in nurseries before transplanting it into affected reefs, similar to gardening on land. 

Coral Gardeners founder Titouan Bernicot drills holes into a dead part of the reef to insert living coral fragments. 

P H O T O G R A P H B Y C R I S T I N A M I T T E R M E I E R F O R N A T I O N A L  G E O G R A P H I C

Bernicot replants a fragment of live Pocillopora damicornis coral after it spent a month in the nursery

P H O T O G R A P H  B Y  C R I S T I N A  M I T T E R M E I E R  F O R  N A T I O N A L  G E O G R A P H I C 

Dr. Bowden-Kerby partnered with Fiji’s tourism sector pushing forward the idea of local resorts employing their own coral gardeners. The gardeners spread his practice by teaching both locals and tourists basic reef restoration knowledge. And coral transplanting has successfully caught on not only in Fiji but also in the Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Philippines,  Madagascar, Tanzania, and Cuba as part of initiatives with the local tourism sector but also as part of the greater professional and scientific efforts such as those needed in Mexico or on the Great Barrier Reef. 

A 2019 report by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and  Medicine (NAS) confirmed how the human intervention is needed to ensure  the persistence of the world’s coral reefs, which are of incalculable value to  “human well-being, national economies, and future wonder.”

Worth mentioning and applauding is also a Mexican program that sustainably replanted more than 6,000 coral fragments over six years. 

Non-profit organizations leading the way in the emerging field of coral restoration are Counterpart International, Corals for Conservation,  the World Wide Fund for Nature, and many others.  

What is next? 

The next big issue and problem that needs to be addressed is ocean acidification killing shellfish and as the journal, Science of the Total  Environment reports is seriously damaging the Dungeness crabs’ shells and its sensory organs in the Pacific Northwest. Experts working on solutions for the acidification problem monitor impacts, coordinate education programs, and develop adaptation strategies, although mostly on a regional and local level. It does not seem as if efforts done so far are resulting in much-needed improvement. To battle this problem, a joint effort of all nations, governments, and individuals will be required to lead a  life and businesses with much more respect to oceans and marine life.


EcoWatch. (2020). Ocean Cleaning Device Succeeds in Removing Plastic for the First Time. [online]  Available at: [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020]. (2020). Solar-powered barge a key ‘interceptor’ for plastic waste. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020]. 

The Ocean Cleanup. (2020). The Ocean Cleanup. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020]. 

Burke, L., Reytar, K., Spalding, M. and Perry, A. (2020). Reefs at Risk Revisited in the Coral  Triangle. [online] World Resources Institute. Available at: [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. 

GCRMN. (2020). Home – GCRMN. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Feb.  2020]. 

Brien, N. (2020). Fiji tries coral gardening to save South Pacific reefs from bleaching. [online]  Lonely Planet. Available at: reefs [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020]. (2020). Travelers are starting to help with coral replanting around the  globe. [online] Available at: travelers-can-help-revive-ailing-coral-reefs/ [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020]. 

Anon, (2020). [online] Available at: transplanting-corals/ [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020]. 

Anon, (2020). [online] Available at: [Accessed  28 Feb. 2020]. (2020). Coral reefs. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020]. 

Finder, J., Guides, P., Knowledge, P., Science, P., Insider, I. and Feed, T. (2020). Coral Gardening: A  Polyp Apocalypse? – Hydromag. [online] Hydromag. Available at: feed/coral-gardening-a-polyp-apocalypse/ [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. (2020). Coral Reefs. [online] Available at: facts/coral-reefs.html [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020]. 

EcoWatch. (2020). Irish Teenager Wins Google Science Award for Removing Microplastics From  Oceans. [online] Available at: 2639623184.html?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2 [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. 

CNN, Scottie Andrew. “The Pacific Ocean Is so Acidic That It’s Dissolving Dungeness Crabs’  Shells.” CNN, shells-scn-trnd/index.html [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020].

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