A new vessel trolling San Diego Bay will not only help clean the water but may provide the Port of San Diego more information about how to prevent trash from entering the harbor.
The Zephyr is the first of its kind and The Port of San Diego has invested $100,000 in a one-year pilot project involving the vessel.
It's part of the port's Blue Economy incubator which aims to invest $1 million per year, over five years, to gather new businesses and partners to improve the local ecosystem, water quality and spark economic growth.
In a matter of minutes on Monday, the boat collected a plastic jug, a giant plastic bag and a 2x4 piece of lumber out of San Diego Bay.
Captain Eric Dieters told NBC 7 the collection of trash is just a fraction of what is in the body of water considered to be one of the best natural harbors on the West Coast.
Dieters is a commercial fisherman in Alaska as well as a surfer. He saw the problem of trash in the water and decided to look for a solution.
“It's important to me, because I'm a boat captain and I make a living on the water and it's good to have a healthy and clean bay," Dieters said.
The process is fairly simple. A large net on the front of the Zephyr is lowered into the water and then the boat simply drives over the trash and collects it in the net.
The net is lifted out of the water and the trash is thrown into a receptacle aboard.
“A lot of the trash collects from the wind, the tide and gets in these hot spots,” Dieters explained. “These basins are filled with trash. and I drive back and forth through it until I gather all that trash in the basin."
In exchange for the investment, the Port of San Diego will receive a 5 percent share in Zephyr’s revenue.
Port Commissioner Marshall Merrifield said the board hopes to also gather data about the trash the vessel finds.
“We'll understand more when there's more trash when there's less trash. sometimes after a storm, or when the tides change,” Merrifield said. “We want to get that data throughout the year."
If the pilot program proves to be successful, there could be other vessels like it cleaning up other bays and harbors, bringing money and hopefully jobs to San Diego.