International Coastal Cleanup on Hawaiʻi Island nets 1 ton of marine debris
Over the course of three days, more than 2,000 pounds of marine debris and shoreline litter was removed from beaches in Kaʻū, Kona, Kohala and Hilo by five nonprofit organizations, one ambitious student group and steady community member support.
The cleanup events were in collaboration with Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup event, often referred to as “Get the Drift and Bag It!” locally.
“Over 100 bags of ocean pollution were removed from the coastline between Ka Lae and Kamilo with support from community volunteers and the ocean ambassadors with Sea Cleaners during two cleanup events last week,” said Megan Lamson, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund Hawaiʻi program director.
Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund teamed up with Sea Cleaners NZ, bringing a group of visiting youth and young-adult ocean ambassadors from New Zealand, Australia and Oʻahu, to help support cleanup efforts in Kaʻū with Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund and in Kohala with Pololū community stewards. The dozen ambassadors, ages 16 to 20, will lead environmental education lessons in classrooms from Konawaena Middle and High School to Kohala High School during their time on Hawaiʻi Island.
Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund community-based cleanup events are funded by private donations and a 2021 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program competitive grant award, and this Sea Cleaners youth ambassador trip was supported by the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, Hawaiian Airlines and Billabong Australia.
Lamson said the nonprofit also removed over 1,850 pounds of marine debris, including an estimated 400 pounds of derelict fishing net bundles. Volunteers also diverted 500 pounds of plastic pollution from the landfill by collaborating with local artist, Don Elwing of Sea Love.
Sea Cleaners founder, Capt. Hayden Smith said: “We’ve made a lot of progress, but there is still much to do. That’s why — even 20 years in — we still measure every day in bags of rubbish removed from the water – this isn’t the kind of problem you can solve overnight with a silver bullet, it takes consistent effort every day. It will require ongoing work from all of us, from governments to companies and individual people, to shift the health of our oceans back towards where they need to be.”
A Kona-based nonprofit, Clean Rewards, teamed up with Tan & Salty Hawaiʻi to host a community cleanup event on Sept. 16 at Old Kona Airport with an educational booth by The Marine Mammal Center, beginning with a yoga class from The Yoga Nest. The organization led 15 volunteers who helped to remove 10 pounds of trash, including, microplastics, bottle caps and 501 cigarette butts.
Also on Sept. 16, the Marine Option Program led 16 University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo students to clean along the Hilo coastline from the mouth of Wailoa River, near Hilo Bay Café and Liliʻuokalani Gardens, to the old Uncle Billy’s Hotel.
This Marine Option Program team removed an estimated 150-200 pounds of trash, including many old bike parks, broken glass fragments and miscellaneous accumulated litter from abandoned homeless encampments. Fishing line collected that day was added to the monofilament line bins that were previously installed by a past Hawaiʻi at Hilo Marine Option Program student, and are currently being maintained by the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources’ Protected Species Program staff.
Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund has removed over 325 tons, or 650,000 pounds, of marine debris from the shores of Hawaiʻi Island since 2003. Over 90% of it was recovered from along the remote Kaʻū coastline with help from over 60,000 hours of volunteer labor.
Sea Cleaners have five full-time boats that are deployed around Auckland and Northland’s sea to remove litter and marine debris. Since its foundation in 2002, the team has removed over 15,500,000 liters of litter in New Zealand.
Beach cleanups continue with the nonprofit Clean Rewards hosting an event at the Hokulia Bypass on Saturday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Miss Kona Coffee 2023, Shyla Victor will also be at the event, and keiki entertainment will follow at the Keauhou Shopping Center from noon to 3 p.m.
Keep Puakō Beautiful hosted its first International Coastal Cleanup event last weekend from Paniau to the Hokuloa Church in Puakō. The organization is hosting its final International Coastal Cleanup event at Spencer’s Beach Park on Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to noon.
Check out out to get involved with future beach cleanups with the organizations below:
- Clean Rewards (Kona) – [email protected]
- Clean The Pacific (North Kohala) – [email protected] – back in 2024
- Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund (Kaʻū) – [email protected] or wildhawaii.org/calendar
- Keep Puakō Beautiful (South Kohala) – [email protected]
- Ocean Defenders Alliance (Kona – Kohala dive cleanups) – [email protected]