Team collects over 86,000 pounds of marine debris from Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Over 86,000 pounds of marine debris were cleared from the Pacific Ocean, thanks to the conservation efforts of a Hawaii nonprofit organization.
During a 30-day cleanup, a team from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine Debris Project removed the debris from shallow coral reefs and shorelines of islands and atolls along Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is home to thousands of wildlife species, many of which are endangered, and contain 3.5 million acres of coral reefs.
The 16-person team’s target areas along the island chain were the Maro Reef, Laysan Island, and the Lisianski Island. Of the total debris cleared, 57,240 pounds were removed from the Maro Reef, 16,820 pounds were removed from the Laysan Island, and 12,040 pounds from the Lisianski Island.
Additionally, the team focused on disentangling “ghost nets,” or abandoned fishing nets, which threaten the endemic wildlife of the coral reef.
During the cleanup, team members witnessed and swiftly rescued a Hawaiian green sea turtle and protected seabirds from debris, prompting concerns of their survival.
“We happened to be in the right place at the right time to save that turtle. You can only imagine how many more lost animals there would be if Papahanaumokuakea Marine Debris Project wasn’t preemptively cleaning up these reefs,” said James Morioka, the organization’s executive director.
Throughout the organization’s cleanup projects, Morioka has noticed an alarming trend of ghost lines consisting of the majority of debris.
Citing that all 57,000 pounds of debris collected from the Maro Reef — an area only slightly larger than Ala Moana Beach Park — were ghost lines, he urges more needs to be done to prevent the influx of debris into the island chain.
The team returned to Honolulu aboard their ship M/V Imua on Wednesday, completing their first large scale cleanup to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in 2023.
Their next mission to the monument is scheduled to begin on Aug. 26 and finish on Sept. 22.
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