Beach Sweep for International Year of the Reef

(KHNL) -- They protect us from bad weather, create a habitat for marine life, and even give us good surf.

Hawaii's coral reefs are being closely watched, just like others around the world during this year of the reef.

Unfortunately, Hawaii is in a region of the pacific where marine debris finds its way to much of our southern and eastern shores. Plastic can takes its toll on marine wildlife including reefs.

From plastic fishing gear and nets, to plastic bottle caps, strong onshore winds and ocean currents are making Hawaii beaches a plastic paradise.

"The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is just filled with trash. They call it the great pacific garbage dump," said Suzanne Frazer of Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii.

Most of the plastic debris that litters Kokololio beach in Hauula comes not from beach goers but from all over the world.

"It's really coming from all around the pacific rim people are getting rid of their garbage and it ends up in the pacific ocean and it rolls around here," said beach cleanup volunteer Miwa Tamanaha.

It can be tedious picking up these small pieces of plastic in the sand, and they can also pose a more serious threat.

The danger to humans is that when this plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces it releases P.C.B.'s and other toxins," said Frazer.

Plastics, including old fishing nets have been known to strangle marine wildlife like birds. Now reefs are being affected.

Coral heads found caught in a fish net and a plastic crate died after floating to shore. And this garbage is becoming a plight on our beautiful beaches.

"It's really sad when you come out to a really beautiful place like this and it's all littered with plastic," said Tamanaha.

The Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii is supporting at least three bills currently active in the Hawaii legislature banning plastic bags and, styrofoam.