SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Environmentalists on a mission to clean up the ocean of plastic pulled 40 tons (36 metric tons) of abandoned fishing nets this month from an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The crew of volunteers with the California-based nonprofit Ocean Voyages Institute fished out the derelict nets from a marine gyre between Hawaii and California.

The group’s founder, Mary Crowley, announced the enormous haul Friday and said it is part of an effort to rid the waters of the nets that entangle whales, turtles and fish and damage coral reefs.

The group is one of a handful of nonprofits working to collect plastic trash from the open ocean—a dangerous, time consuming and expensive endeavor.

To make their fishing expedition easier, the group gave sailors navigating through the Pacific buoyant GPS trackers they attached to the nets later collected by volunteers.

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