Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center Conducts Reef Cleanup in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

July 18, 2007
Recovered derelict fishing nets piled on an Avon at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

The NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette embarked in July on a 28-day mission to remove damaging marine debris from coral reef habitats of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). The debris cleanup expedition is the third by the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) in waters of the NWHI since the NWHI Marine National Monument was established in June, 2006.

A crew of 17 scientists from the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division will survey and remove debris from Kure Atoll and Pearl and Hermes Atoll, focusing on High Entanglement Risk Zones and accumulation rate study sites. The marine debris includes derelict fishing gear from North Pacific fisheries that accumulates in the NWHI after being transported there by ocean currents of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. The scientists will also remove marine debris accumulated on shore at these atolls and at Laysan and Lisianski Islands.

While at Kure and Pearl and Hermes Atolls, biological surveys will be conducted for fish, pearl oyster, and crown-of-thorns starfish. In addition, oceanographic equipment, including subsurface temperature recorders (STRs), and ecological acoustic receivers (EARs) will be recovered and redeployed at Kure and at Pearl and Hermes. While transiting between Atolls, the cruise will conduct conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) casts at designated stations along the Hawaiian Archipelago.

The Sette will also provide logistical support for the Hawaii Division of Fish and Wildlife (DOFAW, DLNR) camp at Kure Atoll, and for the PIFSC Protected Species Division camp at Tern Island (French Frigate Shoals) which is monitoring the highly endangered Hawaiian monk seal.