Expeditions carry large amounts of plastic from distant Hawaiian atolls

Honolulu (AP) —Abandoned this week with a large amount of marine plastic that could involve endangered Hawaiian monk seals and other animals on uninhabited beaches extending more than 1,300 miles north of the northernmost islands of the Hawaiian Islands. I came back with a fishing net. Honolulu.

Cleaning work at Papahana Umokua Kea Marine National Monument lasted for three weeks, with a crew of over 47 tonnes (43 metric tonnes) of “ghost nets” and other marine plastics such as buoys, crates, bottle caps and cigarette lighters. Was picked up from the beach. Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The largest protected marine protected area in the United States and one of the largest protected areas in the world, the monument is located in the northern Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by what is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In the ocean current. The islands act like combs that collect debris on otherwise pristine beaches.

The monument’s ecosystem is diverse and unique, making it one of the most intact marine habitats on the planet. However, the beaches are littered with plastics and nets that catch wildlife such as the endangered Hawaiian monk seals (about 1,400 remaining in the world) and green turtles.

The crew removed the line from the monk seal on the first day of the expedition.

The islands with few predators are a paradise for many species of seabirds, and Midway Atoll is home to the world’s largest albatross colony.The land there Scattered dead birds People who died after ingesting plastic.

The cleanup was organized by the non-profit Papahanaumokuakea Marine Debris Project, which is affiliated with federal agencies such as the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Kevin O’Brien, president of the new organization and a former NOAA employee, said the task was costly but important.

“Every summer we talk to some of these people who are there for the Monk Seal Camp and they talk about the particular nets that have been there for several years,” O’Brien said. “So a trip like this that can yank almost everything we see can have an impact.”

The latest expedition will focus on the coastlines of various atolls, and a trip later this year will remove nets from the coral reefs that surround the island.

According to a NOAA survey, about 57 tonnes (52 metric tonnes) of debris accumulate on the coast of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands each year. Future analysis of coral reef removal is expected to estimate the total amount of debris that collects on both beaches and the important coral reef ecosystems that surround them, giving researchers a more complete view of the problem.

Twelve crew members, including people from the Marine Debris Project, the Federal Agency, Hawaii, and a local university, cleared Debris from Raysan Island, Lisianski Island, Midway Atoll, French Frigate Shoals, and Kure Atoll.

Matt Santa, chairman of the Kure Atoll Reserve, was one of the people involved in the expedition. He has been doing fieldwork for months at Kure Atoll for over a decade.He embarked First 9 months of isolated coronavirus pandemic There was a small crew there and I returned to the new world in November.

He said returning to a “home away from home” in a new role is a unique experience.

“I always wanted to stay involved in the work being done at the monument, but I thought I might be able to try it with another ability,” Saunter said. “Since we basically visited all the different islands in a short time frame, I have all the different wildlife and how they nest differently, and different kinds of vegetation at this time of the year. , And I was able to see how the beach is. “

While in Wu, which is managed by the state of Hawaii and has a team of workers throughout the year, the crew dropped new staff and welcomed one to go home. They also replenished remote camps.

Wu field workers collected about 13 tonnes (12 metric tonnes) of debris over a three-year period and were ready to pick them up when the ship arrived.

The Marine Monument is also a valuable cultural attraction for Native Hawaiians, and Hawaiian rituals were held daily on the trip. Cultural protocols respect the islands and seek permission to work in this rarely visited region of the world.

“Papahanaumokuakea is one of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet, the center of many Native Hawaiian stories, and a place where nature and culture are united,” said the NOAA Marine Monument. Director Athline Clark said. “It supports the most vulnerable Hawaiian wildlife species, and almost all of its habitat is used by seabirds, turtles and seals for important nesting, digging, sunbathing and parenting.”

The monument is also home to the famous Battles of World War II Midway, Where researchers discovered that they had recently sunk Japanese warship It was lost in battle.

Most of the debris brought back is incinerated and turned into electricity that powers homes and businesses on Oahu. Some fishing gear is reserved for student recycling projects, and many fishing nets are brought to the Marine Debris Research Center at Hawaii Pacific University for research to determine the source of this fishing gear.


Follow Jones on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CalebAP..

Posted on