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Hawai‘i Nei Marine Debris Removal Project Continues

November 21, 2018, 8:10 AM HST (Updated November 28, 2018, 10:48 AM)
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Kamilo Point on Hawai‘i Island. PC: Hawai‘i Nei Marine Debris Removal Project

Over the past two years, the Hawai‘i Nei Marine Debris Removal Project, a collaborative partnership, has worked to remove a combined 369,393 pounds of pollution from four different islands.

Made possible through a grant awarded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program, this effort was led by Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund (HWF) on the Islands of Hawai‘i and Maui; Surfrider Foundation on Kauai (SFK); and Pūlama Lāna‘i (PL) on the island of Lāna‘i.

Team members and volunteers from each of the islands conducted a total of 137 community cleanup events and 668 derelict net recovery patrols over the past 24 months (from July 2016 to June 2018). These cleanup efforts removed a total of 167.6 metric tons of marine debris from Hawaii’s coastlines—an estimated 50.9% of which consisted of nets, rope and line. Debris items were collected from the shores of Hawai‘i Island (28% by weight), Kaua‘i (68%), Maui (3%) and Lāna‘i (1%).

Kamilo Point cleanup on Hawai‘i Island. PC: Hawai‘i Nei Marine Debris Removal Project

Of the 167.6 metric tons (369,393 pounds) of debris collected over this project, an estimated 44.4% (164,069 pounds) was diverted from local landfills via reuse, recycling, energy recapture through the NOAA Nets-To-Energy Partnership and local/global art or research projects. Notably; 11,415 pounds of debris were diverted from Hawai‘i and Kaua‘i Islands in collaboration with Studio KCA to create a life-size blue whale statue that was on display in Bruges, Belgium, from May to September 2018 and is now in route to the Netherlands.

In addition to conducting coastal cleanups, the project included marine debris surveys as a part of ongoing research efforts. Sixty nine surveys were conducted on five different “survey sites,” including 51 over three sites on Lāna‘i (conducted by PL); four surveys on a site in Maui and 17 surveys done at Kamilo Point on Hawai‘i Island (all conducted by HWF). These data are crucial to identifying major sources and types of marine debris and plastic pollution in Hawai‘i.

This two-year project included the efforts of 25,471 volunteer hours in addition to the help of many local business which allowed the project to exceed its expectations (35 total community cleanups and 84 total net patrols proposed) and collect over two times the anticipated 54 metric tons of marine debris.

As a recent recipient of another Marine Debris Removal Grant award from NOAA for a three-year project beginning on Oct. 1, 2018, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund is excited to continue its work in collaboration with Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i and Pulama Lāna‘i.

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“We are honored to be a part of the growing effort statewide to remove and reduce the threats of plastic pollution to marine wildlife along our shores,” said Megan Lamson, HWF Hawai‘i Island Program director, project co-principal investigator. “Together we can both recover debris washing in from near and far, and commit to refusing to be a part of the ever-increasing problem of single-use plastics used and disposed of here locally.”

“For the past two years Surfrider Kauai has been collecting over five tons of marine debris monthly, mainly nets and fishing gear,” said Dr. Carl Berg, co-principal investigator. “We are working with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative to reduce the amount of gear lost at sea and find environmentally friendly ways of recycling the debris.”

Since 2003, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund (HWF) and community volunteers have removed over 252 tons of marine debris from the shores of Hawai‘i Island alone. In 2017, HWF removed over 76,000 pounds of marine debris during 65 cleanup events on Maui and Hawai‘i Island.

For more information or to get involved, visit the HWF website, contact HWF at kahakai.cleanups@gmail.com or call the HWF Hawai‘i Island debris hotline at (808) 769-7629.

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