Sharks enter Toronto harbour

Two sharks can now be seen swimming in Toronto Harbour.

The sharks aren’t fish, but aquatic drones that collect garbage.

PortsToronto, in partnership with RanMarine Technology, has launched a pilot program that saw two WasteShark aquadrones make their Canadian debut in the Toronto Harbour.

PortsToronto leadership and partners gather to celebrate the launch of the WasteSharks as part of PortsToronto’s network of trash trapping devices. (CNW Group/PortsToronto)

As part of PortsToronto’s larger Trash Trapping Program, two new WasteSharks, Ebb and Flow, will join PortsToronto’s network of Seabins in capturing floating debris and small plastic pollution from the surface of the water. The names Ebb and Flow were chosen through a public contest and vote earlier this year.

This pilot was made possible through a grant initiative supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, which supports demonstration projects, feasibility studies, or investment preparation projects that contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The WasteShark aquadrone, made by RanMarine, is designed to collect floating debris from aquatic environments and operates in a similar fashion to a Roomba-like vacuum in a home. The WasteSharks can operate manually by remote control, and can be programmed to operate autonomously along a prescribed route using an online dashboard. They can operate both manually and autonomously for up to six hours.

With a 180-litre capacity, the robot can collect and remove 1100-lbs of waste daily from the aquatic environment. WasteSharks geared to collect larger items – such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, and single-use cups.

Based out of the Outer Harbour Marina, Ebb and Flow will troll problem areas for debris collection throughout the Toronto Harbour and waterfront, collecting debris and contributing to important data collection as part of PortsToronto’s research partnership with the University of Toronto Trash Team and their International Trash Trap Network.

“The WasteShark aquadrone is the latest addition to our successful Trash Trapping Program, which has removed hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic pollution and debris from the Toronto Harbour and Lake Ontario since 2019,” said RJ Steenstra, president and CEO, PortsToronto.

“These aquadrones offer exciting new capability within our network of trash trapping devices in the Toronto Harbour, allowing a nimble response to floating debris that will complement the Seabins already deployed along the waterfront. We look forward to continuing this important work with program partners, in particular our longstanding research partnership with the University of Toronto Trash Team and the International Trash Trap Network that will ensure these devices contribute to global data collection and waste diversion efforts.”

The PortsToronto Trash Trapping Program employs trash trapping technology and solutions-based research to tackle plastic pollution and protect Toronto’s waters. Since 2019, the program has removed hundreds of thousands of small pieces of plastic pollution from the Toronto Harbour. 

The program is led by PortsToronto and the U of T Trash Team, in partnership with the Waterfront Business Improvement Area (WBIA) and the City of Toronto BIA Office Innovation Grant, Nieuport Aviation, the Toronto Zoo, Harbourfront Centre and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).

It is part of the Toronto Inner Harbour Floatables Strategy, a collaborative strategy with a mission to reduce plastic pollution and other floating litter in the harbour, and of the International Trash Trapping Network, an initiative led by the U of T Trash Team and Ocean Conservancy, and has influenced the launch of similar trash trapping and data collection programs throughout the Great Lakes and beyond.

Learn about the type, amount and sources of the debris the sharks are capturing by following @Sharks_TO on Twitter and Instagram. Share your sightings with the hashtags #SharksTO and #WasteShark.