50 metric tons of marine debris collected from Northwestern Hawa - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

50 metric tons of marine debris collected from Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

A member of the NOAA team cuts a turtle free of debris. - Source: NOAA A member of the NOAA team cuts a turtle free of debris. - Source: NOAA
Source: NOAA Source: NOAA
NOAA team members found 50 metric tons of marine debris. - Source: NOAA NOAA team members found 50 metric tons of marine debris. - Source: NOAA
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A NOAA ship returned to Honolulu on Saturday with nearly 50 metric tons of marine debris from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. 

A team of 17 scientists aboard the 224-ft. NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette collected the debris, which threatens monk seals, sea turtles and other marine life in the coral reef ecosystem.

NOAA has conducted annual removal missions of marine debris in the NWHI since 1996 as part of a coral restoration effort.

"What surprises us is that after many years of marine debris removal in Papahânaumokuâkea and more than 700 metric tons of debris later, we are still collecting a significant amount of derelict fishing gear from the shallow coral reefs and shorelines," said Kyle Koyanagi, marine debris operations manager at NOAA Fisheries' Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and chief scientist for the mission. "The ship was at maximum capacity and we did not have any space for more debris." 

This year, marine debris was collected from waters and shorelines around northern most islands and atolls: Kure Atoll, Midway Atoll, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Lisianski Island and Laysan Island.

Approximately half of the debris was comprised of derelict fishing gear and plastics.

As part of this year's mission, the NOAA team did look for debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan, however, no debris with an explicit connection to the tsunami was found. Scientists monitored marine debris for radiation in partnership with the Hawaii Department of Health out of abundance of caution and to gather baseline data from the NWHI.

"While we did not find debris with an obvious connection to last year's tsunami, this mission was a great opportunity to leverage activities that had already been planned and see what we might find," said Carey Morishige, Pacific Islands regional coordinator for NOAA's Marine Debris Program. "It's also an important reminder that marine debris is an everyday problem, especially here in the Pacific."

NOAA says marine debris removed during this project will be used to create electricity through Hawaii's Nets to Energy Program, a public-private partnership. Since 2002, more than 730 metric tons of derelict nets have been used to create electricity-enough to power nearly 350 Hawai'i homes for a year.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly