Aerial Surveys in Main Hawaiian Islands Identify Accumulations of Marine Debris and Monitor Protected Species
PIFSC staff from the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) and Protected Species Division (PSD) surveyed waters of the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) from a contracted helicopter in summer, 2008, recording locations of marine debris and protected species. Surveys covered waters and beaches around the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Lana'i, Moloka'i, O'ahu, and Kaua'i. During the surveys, PSD staff attempted to sight all Hawaiian monk seals, cetaceans (in nearshore waters), and marine turtle nests around each island. They recorded 31 seals, 11 groups of dolphins, and a single turtle track (no nest was seen).
Meanwhile, members of the CRED Marine Debris Project were sighting and locating marine debris on the beaches. Marine debris, particularly derelict fishing gear, is a primary threat to the endangered monk seal and other marine life. CRED scientists recorded 1086 accumulations of derelict fishing gear during the survey. Of the 107 debris accumulations seen on Oahu, 98 were removed. They weighed 2.7 tons. A report of the surveys including GIS maps of marine debris locations will be distributed to marine resource managers on the affected islands for their use in debris cleanups.