Marine debris bounty program nets encouraging results
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s commercial fishermen are tacticians in landing prized catches, but recently, many have been cashing in on a different kind of haul — thousands of pounds of trash from the ocean.
It’s all part of a bounty collection program led by NOAA and Hawaii Pacific University.
The concept is simple — fishermen reel in floating debris and are paid by the pound.
“Ultimately, it’s really a win-win because it’s fishermen who are already out at sea,” said Raquel Corniuk, research manager at HPU’s Center for Marine Debris Research. “So it’s very opportunistic whenever they come across marine debris. They can remove it and bring it back here and they can get paid for it.”
In less than a year, the project hauled in over 12,000 pounds of trash and some of the nets are massive.
“Seeing it firsthand, like that one net that was over 2,000 pounds,” Corniuk said. “It took a flatbed. We had to rent a flatbed drive down there and it took hours to even load it on our flatbed from the harbor.”
Hank Lynch is one of 22-commercial fishermen who participated in the program, but the windward Oahu-based angler has been clearing the trash on his own for the last 15 years.
Much of the debris drifts from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which sits thousands of miles away from the islands.
“This isn’t fishing debris from Hawaii,” Lynch said. “There’s certainly a small amount of stuff that’s from Hawaii, but more than 90% of it, much more than 90% of it is from somewhere else. So it’s someone else’s trash that’s drifting close to Hawaii.”
What’s collected is turned over to HPU’s marine debris team, which repurposes the trash into new products or energy.
Although they’ve made great progress thus far, the ultimate goal is 100 metric tons.
“It’s really difficult knowing that it’s out there, but on the other side, it’s positive knowing we have so many people willing to support this project and willing to go out and remove it from the ocean,” Corniuk said.
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