Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund removes marine debris from Hawai‘i's Ka‘ū Coast
HWF volunteers removing debris from Kamilo.
HWF volunteers removing debris from Kamilo. Credit: HWF

Project Dates: July 2013 - June 2015

What’s the project?
Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund (HWF) volunteers patrol the Ka‘ū coast on the Big Island of Hawai‘i for marine debris, from the northern boundary of the state’s Wai‘ōhinu portion of the Ka‘ū Forest Reserve to the south tip of the island (Ka Laefor).

HWF focuses on removing derelict fishing nets and larger debris items with winches to safely and efficiently retrieve the larger debris and net bundles. The project leads estimate accumulation rates for all marine debris items before shipping the debris to O‘ahu through Hawai‘i’s Nets-to-Energy Program. In addition to the patrols, HWF organizes outreach and education activities island-wide using NOAA Marine Debris Program and HWF material for children in grades K-12.

Who is involved?
With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s (MDP) Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, HWF and its volunteers collect and carry marine debris, while recording the type and quantity on NOAA MDP datasheets. Every three months, 50 or more volunteers participate in the cleanup and debris recording, while smaller cleanups held throughout the year involve classrooms, teenagers, and younger children.

What does it accomplish?
Between 2012 and 2013, HWF removed 311,126 lbs of marine debris from this region. Of this, approximately 63 percent of the debris (by weight) removed over the years was large derelict fishing net bundles. This project removes net bundles, converts them to energy, and educates younger generations of Hawaiians. Over the course of the grant, HWF and its volunteers hope to remove about 31 metric tons of marine debris and reach 600 students and community members through outreach and education events.

What is something unique about the project?
The Ka‘ū Forest Reserve portion of the coast is difficult to access, making removals challenging, but also keeping the area safe from human disruption. This area is now known for its wealth of natural and cultural resources that include over three dozen species of native plants (many endemic and one endangered), countless native invertebrate species, Hawaiian petroglyphs, and at least four anchialine pool ecosystems. To access this coastline, brave volunteers need high clearance 4x4 vehicles to traverse the soft volcanic ash or very rough lava flows.