PIFSC Marine Debris Team Conducts Another Reef Cleanup in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

September 17, 2007
photo of marine debris at Pearl and Hermes Atoll, NWHI
Recovered derelict fishing nets piled on an Avon at Pearl and Hermes Atoll, NWHI.

The NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette embarked in September on a 19-day mission to remove damaging marine debris from coral reef habitats of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). This is the second of three expeditions this calendar year directed towards marine debris removal by the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC). The operations are taking place in waters of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

A crew of 16 scientists from the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) will survey and remove debris from French Frigate Shoals, focusing on High Entanglement Risk Zones and debris accumulation rate study sites. The marine debris generally includes derelict fishing gear from North Pacific fisheries that accumulates in the NWHI after being transported by ocean currents of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. The PIFSC crew will also remove marine debris accumulated on shore at Tern Island.

While at French Frigate Shoals, scientists will conduct biological surveys for pearl oyster and crown-of-thorns starfish. In addition, oceanographic equipment, including Subsurface Temperature Recorders (STRs), Ecological Acoustic Receivers (EARs), and Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) buoys will be recovered and redeployed at French Frigate Shoals. While transiting along the Hawaiian Archipelago to French Frigate Shoals, the Sette will conduct Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) casts opportunistically at designated permanent stations. Additional casts may be conducted at night at various sites around French Frigate Shoals. Also participating on the cruise are two CRED scientists and a cooperating scientist from the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History who will conduct invasive species surveys and recover Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) at French Frigate Shoals. They will collect, document, and preserve samples of invertebrates and algae to be analyzed ashore.