NOAA Launches Ocean Clean-Up Effort

HONOLULU (KHNL)  A trashy situation at sea is causing a big concern for scientists. They're noticing a disturbing increase of discarded debris like fishing nets and other gear in the ocean.

In response, they're undertaking a project to address the growing pollution problem in the waters around our state. Scientists and volunteers have cleaned up more than 57 tons of marine debris in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands last year.

Every year more than 542 tons of derelict, or abandoned nets and fishing gear litter the Pacific Ocean.

"Hawaii is in a very strategic location and unfortunately that strategic location brings a great deal of marine debris to the wonderful, beautiful shores that we treasure," said NOAA administrator Conrad Lautenbacher.

That's why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has embarked on a $600,000 two week survey to identify and map marine debris around our state. The Big Island has already been surveyed.

"It degrades habitat through reef entanglement, closes an entanglement to protect its species, like the monk seals, the green sea turtles, and many season birds," said Seema Balwani, project supervisor.

Last Thursday a humpback whale got entangled in fishing gear and large flotation devices in waters off Big Island.

"They can do a lot of damage in a lot of ways from destroying reef habitat, to killing fish, to killing mammals, to killing sea birds, to breaking large coral heads off," said project leader Oliver Vameron.

NOAA expects to remove the marine debris in about a month.