Ocean Blog

100K Pounds of Debris Removed from Papahānaumokuākea

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Photo courtesy of USFWS – Pacific Region.

Roughly 100,000 pounds of marine debris were removed from within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, including Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial.

The mountain of debris–which filled 12 shipping containers–was collected from reefs and beaches over the last six years and stored on a tarmac at Midway. It was shipped to Honolulu aboard the charter vessel Kahana where it it will be processed by Schnitzer Steel Corporation and incinerated at the City and County of Honolulu’s H-POWER plant to produce electricity.

“The success of this project is linked to effective inter-agency coordination, communication and action,” said Jason Misaki, Oahu wildlife manager for the DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “Marine debris in the Monument affects all partners, making joint efforts like this one extremely instrumental to our continued protection of resources.”    


Marine debris can pose a lethal hazard to wildlife who ingest it or become entangled, including endangered Hawaiian monk seals, Hawaiian green sea turtles and seabirds. More than five tons of plastics end up on Midway Atoll every year because adult albatrosses mistaken plastics, fishing gear and other ocean debris for food and try to feed it to their young. Plastics break down into smaller pieces, but never fully biodegrade. They can affect all levels of the ocean ecosystem.

Photo courtesy of USFWS – Pacific Region.

“Marine debris are not something you can clean up just once; it takes a sustained effort over time,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Superintendent Matt Brown. “By working with the State of Hawaii, Office of Hawaiian Affairs and NOAA, we can accomplish more than any one agency on its own to clean up marine debris and educate the public to prevent it from entering the ecosystem.”

Each year, tons of marine debris from throughout the Monument are collected by volunteers and staff from the USFWS, the State of Hawaii and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


“With the high rate of marine debris accumulation in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, removing debris is imperative to ensure the health of this valuable habitat and the species that call it home,”said Mark Manuel, NOAA Marine Debris Program Pacific Islands regional coordinator. “We are happy to have the opportunity to work with partners on this important initiative.”

Photo courtesy of USFWS – Pacific Region.

The marine debris removal efforts is a collaborative partnership between the USFWS, State of Hawai‘i DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

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