Coast Guard removes 4 tons of debris from the Pacific - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Coast Guard removes 4 tons of debris from the Pacific

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Crewmembers aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kukui's small boat transfer marine debris from Kure Atoll to the buoy tender, Friday, Nov. 7, 2008. Crewmembers aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kukui's small boat transfer marine debris from Kure Atoll to the buoy tender, Friday, Nov. 7, 2008.
Chief Petty Officer James Rusko (left) and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randy Thomson offloading debris. Chief Petty Officer James Rusko (left) and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randy Thomson offloading debris.
Crew members aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Kukui removed four tons of marine debris and nets from Kure Atoll last week. Crew members aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Kukui removed four tons of marine debris and nets from Kure Atoll last week.

HONOLULU (KHNL) - As part of its continued commitment to protect marine life, crewmembers aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Kukui removed four tons of nets and debris from Kure Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands last week.

Despite rough conditions, crewmembers used two small boats to transport 36 loads, or four tons, from the atoll over three days.

"The impact is devastating," said Cynthia Vanderlip, manager of the State of Hawaii's Kure Atoll Wildlife Sanctuary.  "This is a serious problem that cannot be solved until the responsible parties are held accountable, but in the meantime, we'll continue to do what we can."

Nets and debris, like those removed from Kure Atoll, pose serious threats to marine life and sensitve reef systems across the Pacific.

The net retrieval mission is a partnership between the U.S. Coast Guard, the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and National Marine Fisheries Service.

"Without the work of DLNR and NMFS in gathering nets and discarded plastics, and the Coast Guard's ability to transport these materials off the atolls and islands of Papahanaumokuakea, the outlook for many reefs and marine mammals would be bleak," said Lt. Whitney Houck, the Kukui's executive officer.

In the past two years, DLNR and NMFS officers have rescued seven Hawaiian monk seals, five black-footed albatross and a tern from entanglement.  Officials say the Coast Guard's removal of the nets and debris will prevent such entanglements.

Photos courtesy Ens. Tim Dolan