We provide trawls and protocols for citizen scientists to collect data on marine plastic pollution, raise awareness about this important issue, and contribute to a more robust global dataset. The information we receive from citizen scientists and partners like Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd is used to update our Global Estimate of Marine Plastic Pollution. This program provides a unique hands-on experience to carry out research that is essential to the 5 Gyres mission. 

* All trawls are currently loaned out. Please join our waitlist.

*Ambassador created: Dr Max Liberion

*Ambassador created: Erika Delamare

“Being able to participate in citizen science gives Sea Shepherd Australia’s Marine Debris Campaign an opportunity to further educate and involve the public on plastic pollution in our oceans. Research is a vitally important tool and we are privileged to have a manta trawl to contribute to the global dataset. Our founder Paul Watson says ‘If the Ocean dies we die’ and we need the research for this very reason!”

- Liza Dicks, Sea Shepherd Marine Debris Program Manager

By participating in the TrawlShare program, HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT FROM US:

  • Use of a proprietary 5 Gyres trawl, valued at $3,000, for up to one year, or instructions on how to build your own trawl

  • Access to protocols for using the trawl to collect data.

  • Trawlshare resources

  • Inclusion of your data in our Global Estimate of Marine Plastic Pollution.

  • A direct connection to 5 Gyres staff for quick response to any questions.

As a TrawlShare participant, HERE’S WHAT WE EXPECT FROM YOU:

  • We aim to collect 300 data points by the end of 2018 and welcome you to contribute to the data set! Data collected will be included in our Global Estimate of Marine Plastic Pollution. Please submit collected data in a timely manner and follow our Trawl Protocols to ensure that your data meets our specifications.

  • While the trawl is on loan, we cannot cover any shipping costs. Payment for shipping the trawl from Los Angeles to your location at the onset of the program is roughly $100 within the United States and $500 outside of the U.S. You must also agree to pay $500 if you damage the trawl, and $3,000 if you do not return the trawl to us within the time limit. You must organize and pay for shipping to another location or back to Los Angeles when your participation in the program has concluded.

  • Properly maintain the trawl during the time that you use it, including making any necessary repairs, so that it may immediately be used by the next participant.

  • Establish a public social media account with the ability to connect remotely from your boat. Use #5GyresTrawlShare to share your findings with us and the world!


What is a trawl? We have two types of trawls, both designed by 5 Gyres Research Director and Co-Founder Dr. Marcus Eriksen, shown in the video above. The Manta Trawl is 1.5 meters wide, made of aluminum with a 3 meters long, fine-mesh net; the mouth of the trawl is 60 centimeters wide, with two 45 centimeter floating wings on either side. The High Speed Mini Trawl is smaller than the Manta and designed to be used only with a small boat and to skim the water's surface at higher speeds, up to 8 knots. It has a 14 centimeter wide opening with two 50 centimeter wide wings. Both trawls capture floating plastic on the water's surface while filtering debris through a fine-mesh net.

How is a trawl deployed? You will need to rig a spinnaker pole off the beam of your boat so that you can tow the trawl on the water's surface without disturbance from your wake; you can also deploy the trawl from a bridge above a river. We will provide you with data collection protocols.

Do I need a permit to trawl for plastic pollution? It depends. Permits are not required in the open ocean, outside of the Exclusive Economic Zone (200 miles from shoreline). However, there may be other permit requirements. 5 Gyres is not responsible for obtaining permits, but we can help you navigate the process.

How long will it take to receive a trawl? We'll notify you once we have received your application, and will let you know if there is a trawl available or where you are on the waiting list to receive one.

How do I submit data? Use this form to submit your data in order to be included in the Global Estimate of Plastic Pollution.

Thanks to our Sponsor


In Dedication To Michael Brown

Michael Brown was one of the original 5 Gyres Ambassadors, part of our Advisory Committee, and participated in our 2012 Each Pacific Gyre, 2014 North Atlantic Gyre, and 2015 Sea Change Expeditions. 

Michael was a successful and intrepid entrepreneur as Founder of Packaging2.0 and Mission2.Ocean. He did something that few people on this planet ever achieve or even know is there to be achieved. He managed to align his plastic packaging business with a deep sense of accountability for how we treat our planet and its stewardship, with his passion of the ocean: sailing, boating, floating and frolicking. 

Michael passed away on Saturday, March 12th, 2016, after a ten year dauntless ‘dance’ with cancer. The 5 Gyres staff still talks about Michael Brown often and wonder what his input would be on some of our new ideas. Michael Brown would be so proud to see how our TrawlShare Program has grown. Michael worked worked with us in the early stages of the program and provided the first funding to create some of the original trawls. We miss his fiery conversations and insightful and thoughtful suggestions.