Debris Clean Up of Northwestern Hawaiian Island Beaches

July 31, 2015
Debris collected on Lisianski Island. Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.
Debris collected on Lisianski Island. Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

In efforts to remove hazards to wildlife and prevent debris from becoming washed back into the ocean, the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research program (HMSRP) partnered with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, a non-profit organization, to clean marine debris from beaches in the Northwestern Hawaiians Islands. During the 3-week research cruise on the NOAA ship Hiʻialakai in May and June, HMSRP field teams were deployed and marine debris was removed during the camp set-up activities. Debris collection was limited to opportunistic effort at Kure Atoll and Pearl and Hermes Reef and during a 2-day dedicated effort on just the southern tip of Lisianski Island (about 4-5 acres). Even with this minimal effort, a grand total of 5,000 pounds of debris was removed, primarily plastic fishing buoys, nets and lines. This highlights the magnitude of the debris accumulations in the NWHI. The recovered debris was brought back to Honolulu for recycling, art projects, or burning for energy at HPOWER on Oahu. Additionally, during the 4-month field season, HMSRP teams at Pearl and Hermes Reef and Lisianski Island will establish debris plots as a pilot study to determine types, sources, and accumulation rates of debris.