Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine Debris Project Webinar – July 2019

On July 24, 2019, the NOAA Marine Debris Program hosted a NOAA Science Seminar. James Morioka, with the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, presented on the 2018 Marine Debris Removal and Assessment in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, a large-scale mission to survey and remove marine debris from the islands and atolls of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Over the course of 41 days, two ships, and with the support of a shore-based mission, the team was able to successfully remove over 74 metric tons (164,000 lbs) of derelict fishing gear, plastic, and other marine debris from the shallow coral reef and shoreline environments. This webinar provides an overview of the project’s history, survey, and removal methods, recent research, and future missions.

About the Speaker:
James Morioka is the Operations Manager for the Ecosystem Sciences Division (ESD) at NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC). He specializes in project planning, logistics, and field operations. He has been with NOAA PIFSC since 2011 and has managed large-scale marine debris removal operations in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands since 2015. 


Introduction and chatter before the presentation begins.

MaryLee- Everybody, we will get started in just a few min.

Tracy -Looks like we have a good turnout today, 33 people. I wish there was 133 people James, you have such a cool slide deck. Can you tell I’m a fan?

James- Yes, very excited to be here

MaryLee – I’m going to wait one more moment.

Tracy -Can you hear MaryLee as well as you can hear me?

MaryLee- Ok, let’s get started. Good morning and good afternoon to you depending on where you are. I want to welcome you to NOAA s NOS science seminar. The goal of this seminar is to communicate and discuss a variety of coastal and marine topics of interest to NOAA and to the coastal and marine community. My name is MaryLee Haughwout and I’m with the Marine Debris Program and I’m cohosting this seminar with Tracy Gill who’s the coordinator for the NOAA NOS Science seminar series. I want to thank Tracy for all your help pulling this seminar together as this is the first time I’ve been using Adobe connect and leading the science seminar.

Before I introduce our speaker today, I want to get though a few housekeeping items. The audio for today’s event is over your computer speakers. We will have time for questions at the end of the presentation. You are welcome to enter your questions into the chat box during the talk but we will not address the questions until the end. If you’re interested in getting a PDF copy or a recording of today’s presentation you can contact me, at or, our email addresses are in the chat box. And we would be happy to send you a copy and if you are also interested in being on the subscription list for the NOAA weekly science seminar email list, you can contact Tracy gill she will add you.

So without further ado, I’m going to introduce our speaker. I’m very excited to have James Morioka as our guest speaker today. James will be discussing the 2018 Marine Debris removal and assessment in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands within in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. James is the Operations Manager of the Ecosystems Sciences division at the NOAA Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center in Hawaii. Where he specializes in project planning, logistics, and field operations. James has been with NOAA Fisheries since 2011 and has managed large-scale marine debris removal operations in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands since 2015. So welcome James and thank you for all your hard work you put into this presentation. And I’m going to turn it over to you, so take it away.

James begins his presentation

(Numbers below correspond to the slide number in the PowerPoint presentation)

  1. Aloha to all those tuning in from Hawaii and hello to all those tuning in from across the United States. Thank you very much for having me, and thank you MaryLee for the introduction….(next slide)…As MaryLee mentioned, my name is James Morioka and I am the Operations Manager for the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Ecosystem Sciences Division in Honolulu, HI. And today, I have the privilege of sharing with you a project I am very passionate about. Many of you in the audience today have been tremendous supporters of this project over the years, and for that, we are very thankful.
  2. Today, I’ll be presenting in detail, the ins and outs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine Debris Project: a survey, assessment, and removal operation at the islands and atolls of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. I’ll be going over background information on the Hawaiian Islands and why Marine Debris is so prevalent here, the Project History, our Survey and Removal methods, highlights and accomplishments from the 2018 field mission, on-going research, what we’ve got in store for the future, and at the end, I’ll be taking questions pertaining to this project.
  3. Before I get started, I wanted to thank and acknowledge all of our project partners that make this project possible. Our partners include the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, the NOAA Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Nets-to-Energy or Fishing-for-Energy program Schnitzer Steel and H-Power Covanta, the University of Hawaii, the NOAA Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument program, US Fish and Wildlife Services, the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation, SatLink Global, and of course, all of the Co-trustees of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument including the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
  4. Quick background information on the Hawaiian Islands. The Hawaiian archipelago is centrally located in the North Pacific Ocean, in the middle of the world’s largest gyre, the North Pacific Gyre. This gyre is made up of a system of ocean currents and oceanographic factors, and moves large bodies of water, and subsequently marine debris, around the Pacific Rim, from East Asia, the Aleutian Islands, the Pacific Northwest, and the Equator. In the middle of this gyre lies the Hawaiian Islands, made up of the 8 Main Hawaiian Islands, and the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the world’s largest contiguous marine protected area, encompasses the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the water around them, and is more than 2 times the size of the state of Texas. The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is home to 70% of shallow water coral reef habitat in the United States, and is home to more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are endemic, or found only in Hawaii. The most important protected species are the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal, threatened green sea turtle, and the humpback whale.
  5. Here are a few photos of the beautiful islands and reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. You have your beautiful low-lying islands and islets, reticulated coral reefs located within ancient atolls, the turquoise blue shallow sandy lagoon areas, and your beautiful stretches of white sand beaches.
  6. And at these beautiful islands and atolls, is rich, diverse, marine wildlife. From your Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, reef fish, vibrant coral reefs….(next slide)… to your resident spinner dolphins, schools of sharks, and charismatic seabirds. And if you’ve ever been up to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, you know it is nature as it’s intended to be, wild and raw. On the bottom right, you can see a large tiger shark, a couple of feet from the beach, about to pick off a Laysan Albatross fledgling chick.
  7. But as I mentioned before, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands lie in the middle of the North Pacific Gyre. And within this gyre, debris from all across the Pacific swirls around and concentrates in convergence zones, or what they may refer to as garbage patches. But these aren’t patches of garbage that make up floating islands. This is more like debris soup, an area with a higher concentration of debris than the rest of the open ocean….(next slide)… And these high density, high concentration areas are then affected by many different factors that make Hawaii so susceptible to being on the receiving end for large deposits of debris on our shorelines and reefs. Such factors include your powerful northeast trade winds, which are prominent here in the Hawaiian Islands. …(next slide)…. Large swell, predominantly from the North – northwest during our winter months… (next slide)… and of course, we here in Hawaii are very susceptible to storms, such as hurricanes and tropical storms. And this is amplified during El Nino years, where the water warms in the North Pacific causing a shift in the North Pacific subtropical high, bringing warm water and debris closer towards the islands. The warm waters also tend to cause storms to develop closer to the islands of Hawaii, and storms to travel towards Hawaii… (next slide)… And all of these factors ultimately cause the marine debris issue to amplify in the Hawaiian Islands. These Hawaiian Islands, then act as a comb, to filter out all of this floating debris.
  8. As you can see on this map, the islands, atolls, islets, reefs, and seamounts that make up the Hawaiian archipelago extend wide, some 1500 miles across the North Pacific Ocean. This is more than half the distance across the continental U.S. That’s a lot of area….. (next slide)…. On your right you have your 8 Main Hawaiian Islands, and to the left you have the VERY different islands, atolls, shoals, seamounts, and reefs that make up the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. They are different in shape, structure, and habitat which make them even more susceptible to marine debris accumulation.
  9. For those of you that may be unfamiliar with the geology of the Hawaiian Islands, I’ll take just a minute to describe it. The Hawaiian Islands literally emerged from the seas. The Hawaiian Islands are the exposed peaks of a great undersea mountain range known as the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, formed by volcanic activity over a hotspot in the Earth’s mantle. The Hawaiian Islands developed as the Pacific tectonic plate moved slowly northwest over a hotspot in the Earth’s mantle. The hot spot is fixed, but the plate is moving. So the island of Hawaii, or the Big Island, currently sits atop the hotspot, and has live volcanic activity. The other islands which have moved slowly northwest are older islands, no longer with active volcanoes.
  10. From the Main Hawaiian Islands to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, all of the islands and atolls you see today were once formed by volcanoes….(next slide)…the Big Island being the youngest at about 400,000 years old, and Kure Atoll being the oldest at about 28 million years old.
  11. And just as the volcanoes emerged out of the sea, over time, the older islands have also subsided, or sunk, back into the ocean, often turning into shallow reefs or atolls around the area where a volcanic island once was. And the older islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, such as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have formed atolls, shoals, and other expansive reef areas. If you look at the graphic on your screen, you’ll see how an atoll is formed. The volcano emerges out of the ocean, corals begin to settle and grow around the island forming a fringing reef expanding over the next 100,000 years, and as the reef expands, the interior island begins to subside, and the fringing reef turns into a barrier reef. When the island completely subsides beneath the water, it leaves a ring of growing coral with an open shallow lagoon in the center, and the formation to an atoll is complete.
  12. You can see a perfect example here in the picture of Pearl and Hermes Atoll, where you can distinctively see the barrier reef, and the shallow lagoon within it. **This distinctive feature of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands make them extremely susceptible to accumulating entangling marine debris like derelict fishing nets. Unlike the Main Hawaiian Islands, which have a steep incline of reef from the depths to the surface, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands stretch far with shallow water coral reef habitats between 0-20 feet. That’s why the marine debris often accumulates on shore in the Main Hawaiian Islands, and on the reef in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. To give you a visual, in all of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, there is about 15 square kilometers of emergent land area. That’s about the size of Los Angeles International Airport, LAX. But there is about 350 square kilometers of reef area between 0-20 feet deep. That’s 20 times larger than the area of emergent land. And we are only talking reef area between the depths of 0-20 feet.
  13. And because of that, 52 metric tons of floating derelict fishing gear accumulates on the reef in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands annually. And when these islands and atolls are comprised of very sensitive ecosystems, that sustain and perpetuate tons of marine wildlife, you have to do what you can to protect it. You folks have probably heard of the 3 R’s, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We like to teach the 5 Rs. The first R is the first line of defense, to Refuse. But the fifth R, that’s where we come into play… Remove. With so much wildlife depending on these essential keystone habitats, there needs to be constant maintenance and cleaning to make sure the healthy reef and ecosystem can thrive. And that’s why this project plays such an important role in the success and health of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. So how does marine debris affect the NWHI? The 4 main ones we are concerned about are entanglement of marine mammals, turtles, and fish…. Ingestion of debris whether that is seabirds, turtles, seals, or other marine wildlife…. Habitat damage such as the destruction of live vibrant reefs from derelict fishing gear…. and the introduction of non-native species through travelling marine debris.
  14. Here are a couple of photos of what we’ve observed over the years.
  15. And here are some photos we’ve snapped of wildlife entangled or engaging in direct contact with derelict fishing gear.
  16. So this project, the NWHI Marine Debris Project got its start back in 1996 when monk seal and turtle researchers stationed in field camps across the NWHI observed copious amounts of marine debris. They also were the first to see first-hand, the alarming rate of entanglement of wildlife in derelict fishing gear. The first full marine debris season kicked off in 1999, starting with 3 separate ships deployed concurrently for 120 days. In 2006, the President announced that the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument be created to protect the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the surrounding waters. And by 2006, the heavy lifting for debris removal was said to be complete, the backlog of derelict fishing gear on the reef was said to be cleared, and removal operations were scaled back to maintenance mode, which was to annually remove the 52 metric tons of debris from the reefs, which it is estimated to accumulate each year. In the 20 years of the project, we’ve removed over 922 metric tons or 2 million lbs of debris and help disentangle countless animals.
  17. In a recent study, they mentioned that 28% of the 1,400 remaining critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals alive today are because of marine debris removals, disentanglements, and rehabilitation efforts.
  18. Now I will discuss our survey and removal methods for removing debris in-water and on land. Our project focuses primarily on derelict fishing gear removal from shallow coral reef environments between 0-30 feet deep. We survey and remove debris in-water using two methods, 1). Tow-board or towed diver, and 2). Traditional swim. For land, we follow standard NOAA Marine Debris Program protocols.
  19. For tow-board surveys, or towed-diver surveys, we use a 17-19’ inflatable boat to tow a team of freedivers, or snorkelers, at 1-2 knots, 50 feet behind the boat. The divers use breath-hold techniques, not scuba, and wooden boards to fly through the water to rapidly visually survey for nets. Using the boards our divers are able to move quickly left and right, up and down, through the water to effectively survey the most area.
  20. This is used most predominately in the back-reef areas of fringing reefs….(next slide)… The waves typically have enough energy to bring the floating nets over the deeper forereef and into the backreef before it gets caught up.
  21. This is an example of how we conduct towboard surveys….(next slide)….First we use a program called ArcGIS and benthic habitat maps to identify how much surveyable reef area between 0-30 feet each island and atoll has, focusing on the shallower areas of reef where the floating nets tend to get caught up…(next slide)…. Then we establish our survey area, by creating a survey polygon or box, with an area of 0.25 square km. Please note that the box on this slide is not to scale… (next slide)… We deploy our team of divers and maneuver the small boat through the shallow survey area. We use a pattern similar to “mowing the lawn” …(next slide)  Once a net is identified, data is collected, the net is cut safely off of the reef to prevent further damage, and the survey continues. …(next slide)… the survey will continue until the survey area is complete or the boat is full of net
  22. Here is an example of what the spatial data looks like after a field mission. Each track line is set at 15m wide, which is the minimum visibility criteria for our two divers. This ensures accurate representation and calculation of our survey area. You can see that all measures are taken to ensure complete survey and maximum net removal.
  23. For swim surveys, the boat team helps direct freedivers to navigate through and around patch reef areas to swim, survey, and find net.
  24. This is a picture of the patch reef area at Pearl and Hermes Atoll… (next slide)… similarily to the towboard surveys, the survey area is created (next slide until divers) and the divers are deployed. …(next slide)… once deployed, the divers swim side by side in a zig-zag pattern, covering the reef area…(next slide)… they will continue to swim until they find a net… (next slide)… just like the other method, once a net is identified, data is collected, the net is cut safely off the reef, and the survey continues until the survey area is complete or the boat is full of net….(next slide)…. Once the survey is complete, the survey area is calculated and the net locations are mapped using our GPS tracks and waypoints.
  25. This is the spatial data from this year’s tow and swim surveys at Pearl and Hermes Atoll… (next slide)… here’s a close up…(next slide)…. And here are the locations of the 315 net cluster removed.
  26. For both in-water methods, once the net is identified, data is collected on the net such as net type, size, volume, fouling, coral growth, as well as habitat data such as depth and benthic composition (% coral, macro-algae, turf algae, crustose coralline algae, sand, etc). Then the dive teams breath hold dive to safely cut and remove the net without damaging the reef. The nets are then manually hauled into the small boats until the boats are full. Once full, the nets are craned out of the boats onto the ship.
  27. Here are some pictures of the process. In your top left you have a net on the reef, a team of divers carefully removing the net, a boat team hauling the large net into the deck of the boat, and the ship craning the net load out of the boat onto the ship.
  28. Land debris is straight forward. The team accesses the beach via small boat, the team is deployed on land, they storm the beach, and all of the nets and other entanglement hazards are removed from the shoreline. The debris is loaded onto the boats and offloaded onto the ship similarly to the in-water debris.
  29. Play debris video. I’d like to show a quick 2 minute video of the survey and removal process.
  30. In 2018, we had a 41-day mission in September-October 2018, which was 3 part, on two separate ships with a shore-based mission in-between. In total we yielded over 164,000 lbs, or over 74 metric tons of debris removed.
  31. The mission commenced on September 19, with Leg 1 aboard the NOAA research vessel, Oscar Elton Sette. It was staffed with 17 divers and coxswains – coxswains are folks that drive the boats, 1 UAS pilot, and 1 data manager. It focused exclusively on in-water removal operations at Pearl and Hermes Atoll, and 2.23 square km of shallow reef area was surveyed and cleaned, resulting in over 51,000 lbs of derelict fishing net removed.
  32. Here are some highlight photos.
  33. At the tail end of leg 1, the ship pulled into port at Midway Atoll, which lies near the end of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands chain. On October 5, 14 diver and coxswains and 1 UAS pilot got off the ship to continue Leg 2 of the field mission. The NOAA ship began its transit back to Honolulu to offload the debris. The staff of 15 at Midway Atoll executed in-water and shoreline removal operations for one week. On October 12, 10 staff got onto a new ship, the merchant vessel Imua, to continue leg 3 of the field mission. Leg 2 continued with 5 field staff members before flying home on October 25. Leg 2 of the mission resulted in 1.35 square km of reef area surveyed and cleaned, and 0.41 square km of shoreline surveyed and cleaned, yielding over 63,000 lbs of debris removed.
  34. Here is a spatial map of the tow and swim survey areas, and the land debris shoreline survey areas.
  35. Here are a few highlight photos from Leg 2.
  36. Leg 3 of the mission started on October 13 with 10 staff aboard the chartered vessel Imua. It focused exclusively on shoreline removal operations at Kure Atoll, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Lisianski Island, Laysan Island, and French Frigate Shoals. 0.18 square km of shoreline were surveyed and cleaned, resulting in over 49,000 lbs of debris removed.
  37. Here a few highlight photos from Leg 3. As you can see many of these beaches are littered with derelict fishing gear and other marine debris. In the top right of your screen, you see 3 marine debris team members carrying loads of debris miles across sandy beaches to the nearest boat access point.
  38. On October 30, the field mission came to an end. The debris was offloaded from the two ships, and sorted and organized for outreach and education, and a media day event. Leading up to, and following the field mission, 906 people were directly reached through outreach and education. We spoke at 10 elementary or intermediate schools before the mission, and 3 high schools attended outreach events following the mission to help sort and tally the marine debris brought back to Honolulu. Information about the project was also shared on blogs, local television networks, magazine articles, and even CBS’s 60 Minutes.
  39. Following the field mission, we worked to properly recycle and dispose the debris. Our partners at the Nets-to-Energy Program at Schnitzer Steel and Covanta helped down-cycle all of our nets by incinerating them to create electricity for homes on Oahu. The clean, usable plastic was provided to artists for artwork, and to non-profit organizations for outreach. A portion of the plastics was donated to a non-profit to recycle and create new products such as soap dispensers, skateboards, and sunglasses. The remainder was sent to the Waste-to-Energy program to create electricity here on Oahu.
  40. For this year’s field mission, not only did we remove 74 metric tons of debris, which roughly translates to the weight of 45 mid-size cars… but we got to continue and pilot some awesome research. We continued our shoreline accumulation study at Midway Atoll, and gathered shoreline accumulation data from 5 new islands and atolls this year. We also started a Structure-from-Motion pilot study to measure the negative impacts of nets on coral reefs. We paired that with a satellite buoy pilot study. Lastly, we got to use UAS’s or drones to try and determine if net detection from the air was feasible.
  41. The shoreline accumulation study has been going on since 2012, with our first data set collected in 2013. The Midway Atoll data set has a 5 year time series, and the data set at Kure Atoll, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Lisianski Island, Laysan Island, and French Frigate Shoals is now at 1 year. With data over time and now over space, we hope to analyze and better understand shoreline accumulation rates, which are not accounted for in the 52 metric tons annually, across the NWHI.
  42. So our study site started in 2012. Due to ship delays, a team of divers were left on Midway Atoll for an extended period of time, allowing them to completely clean the entire atoll of all debris, including the backreef area and the shoreline area. This helped create a clean slate to start assessing for accumulation….(next slide)…The backreef area was stratified by direction into 5 classes, with 7 survey polygons each. The shoreline was divided into 300m survey segments….(next slide)… our shoreline accumulation rate data focused on Sand Island, Eastern Island, and Spit Island.
  43. Each shoreline was divided into 300 meter linear segments, measured along the vegetation line. These islands and sandy shorelines often shift in shape and size from weather, but the vegetation line remains fairly consistent. ..(next slide)….The boats access the shoreline and deploys the field team. ..(next slide)….Using their handheld GPS, the team makes their way down the beach, staying within the water line and vegetation line, collecting all marine debris 10cm or larger, which is about the size of your palm. Smaller debris that is easily identifiable, such as bottle caps and lighters are collected. Hazardous debris such as metal, glass, and lumber, are not surveyed for or collected. . ..(next slide)….Debris is then piled up and staged in several locations along the shore. . ..(next slide)….The team carries on until the survey is complete. ..(next slide)….Once the survey is complete, a team member walks back and tracks the survey area. They use information from their GPS and visually assess where they surveyed and cleaned. . ..(next slide)….Once that is complete, the survey area can be calculated. ..(next slide)….The debris is then loaded into the small boats and transported back to the ship, or in Midway’s case, back to Sand Island, where it is weighed and each debris item is tallied.
  44. Here are some examples of the spatial data from the shoreline surveys at Midway Atoll.
  45. For each 300m shoreline segment surveyed, we have pertinent information that will help us assess accumulation rates. We have the date of last survey, to easily calculate how many days the debris has been accumulating, accurate shoreline survey area, the weight of the debris removed from that survey area, and the tally of each debris item. Therefore, over time, we can measure the rate of change in accumulation, and the change in debris items or debris composition.
  46. Here are some photos of the debris we find. It’s predominantly derelict fishing gear, such as your hard plastic floats, foam floats, eel cone bait traps, and oyster spacer tubes which are used for aqua-culturing. However, we do find a lot of plastic you may use in your everyday life, such as tooth brushes, umbrellas, cigarette lighters, shoes and slippers, and of course, the plastic single-use beverage bottle.
  47. We were able to carry this study forth to 5 new islands and atolls. Here is some spatial data from Green Island on Kure Atoll, Laysan Island, and Lisianski Island.
  48. A real interesting project we were able to pilot this year was the Structure-from-motion study to quantitatively measure the impact of nets on reefs. Structure-from-Motion uses thousands of overlapping still 2-D images to stitch together a 3-D mosaic. Mosaics of the reef were created at impact sites, before the net was removed from the reef, and after the net was removed from the reef, to compare net size to scar size. The impact sites were paired with nearby control sites. Analysis and results are still pending.
  49. Here is a screenshot of what a 3-D mosaic looks like in space. It creates an accurate depiction of the reef by taking each point from each picture and projecting it in a 3 dimensional space. It’s as if you threw sand over an invisible reef. . ..(next slide)…. Here is a mosaic of an impacted site… (next slide)… I will be sharing with you some short videos of the impact sites with the net in place, and after the net was removed. …….. You can clearly see the scar site where the net used to be. . ..(next slide)…. This technology can be used to measure damage caused by the net on the reef.
  50. The net locations were randomly selected by surveying stratified sites based on likelihood or probability that a net would be caught on the reef, using historical survey data. ..(next slide)…. This is a spatial map of the impact sites and control sites at Pearl and Hermes Atoll
  51. The Structure from Motion study is a great opportunity for us to learn how much direct impact a single net has on a single reef. To better understand the total impact of a net on reef ecosystems, we paired the Structure-from-Motion study with a satellite buoy pilot study. The goal of the satellite buoy study is to better understand how many reefs a single net impacts or comes in contact with, before settling. Therefore, we tagged 6 nets that fit our criteria, which meant the nets had to be over 75% buoyant, level 1 bio-fouling, meaning they were fairly clean, and a minimum of 0.5 m3. We will be monitoring them for the duration of this year. Preliminary data has shown that some nets have began to move from reef to reef within the atoll.
  52. Lastly, we used UAS, or drones, to try and detect nets from the air. We used a fixed wing, vertical take-off and landing UAS, deployed and recovered from the small boat. The UAS was flown at 60m altitude, which was determined the optimal altitude for getting good area coverage without compromising image quality. We used RGB or Red-green-blue and IR or Infrared sensors. We were able to map 3.39 square kilometers of reef area in less than 10cm resolution. The area mapped using the UAS were then ground truth after, using swim survey methods to identify all net location points. Although analysis is still pending, the preliminary results using the IR spectrum seems promising.
  53. Here is a photo of a net on the reef using the IR sensor. ..(next slide)….You can see it circled here in red. ..(next slide)….Here is a map of the flight areas in orange, with the swim survey area and net locations identified via in-water surveying overlaid. We hope that UAS can be a tool used in the future to identify large nets or high density accumulation zones to reduce in-water survey time.
  54. So what’s in store for us in the future? 2020 is a data analysis year. We hope to analyze the shoreline accumulation data, the Structure-from-motion data, and UAS net detection data. We hope to achieve results that will correlate net size and weight with the damage caused to coral reefs. 2021 is our next projected field mission. This will be a large-scale, 30 to 60 day field mission, to remove as much debris from these sensitive habitats as possible. We will go and resurvey the impact and control sites using Structure-from-Motion, to measure successional change in benthic habitat composition, and measure the rate of coral growth. Hopefully we can present quantitative data that shows the positive impact that net or marine debris removals have on coral reef ecosystems.
  55. That’s all I have for today, but if you want to learn more about the project or about the NOAA Marine Debris Program, please visit, or If there is time at the end following the questions session, I’d like to show a 6 minute video highlighting the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and this project. My information is listed there on this slide, please feel free to reach out to me at any time. Thank you.


(Kalani Quiocho speaks on the video) – There is an olelo no’eau a Hawaiian proverb and it goes ku’i ka’lei mokua Kanaloa, and what that means simply in English is that the islands are strung together like a lei by the ocean. And even deeper than that, in a Hawaiian context, it means the islands are strung together by Kanaloa, or the Ocean Deity, a Hawaiian God. But if you look further into the meaning, the kauna, that deeper meaning, it means that humanity is united by the ocean. Humanity is united by the ocean.

(Kevin O’Brien speaks on video) In the North Pacific there is a system of ocean currents and oceanographic factors that are in play and are a big part of the reason why the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have such a big problem with marine debris. Anything that is dropped into the ocean around the Pacific Rim ends up getting swirled around by this North Pacific Gyre. And the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands lie in the very center of this North Pacific Gyre.  The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands act then as a big comb and filter out all that floating marine debris.

(James Morioka speaks on the video) There’s about 1,400 Hawaiian Monk Seals left in the world, 1,100 of which live in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Our job is to ensure that these animals have a chance at success. So, cleaning up their habitat and cleaning up where they live is our number one priority.

(Kevin O’Brien speaks on video) Every year, 52 metrics tons of derelict fishing gear accumulates in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and that doesn’t even include any of the ocean plastics that end up washing up on the shorelines of these islands and atolls.

(Kalani Quiocho speaks on the video) When I see the images of the ingested plastic in seabirds, when I see the entanglements of marine wildlife… I didn’t necessarily put those things in the water but I am part of this system that sourced those things. So, trying to figure out what in my reach, what in my immediate reach can do? That’s what I have control over.

(James Morioka speaks on video) Whether you live by the shorelines or you live up in the hills or you live up in the mountains, our debris is making its way into the oceans. Whether that’s changing your lifestyle at home, reducing the amount of single-use plastics you utilize, or reusing some of the plastics you’ve already purchased or already have at home. I think everybody can make a difference by making a small change. Now get to work!

(Kalani Quiocho speaks on the video) The work being doing in Papahānaumokuākea is really really important andI’m very proud of our marine debris team. The work that they do is an extension of the work that were are trying to achieve as well within the Monument.

(James Morioka speaks on video)  I think there is a lot of hope for this project because people do care about the environment and people do care about how we can make a change. If you love something, it’s really to want to protect it.

James- Awesome, well thank you guys very very much. I see Sarah’s comment down there and I will be sharing this video with all of you. Thank you for having me, this has been a real pleasure.

Tracy and MaryLee – Bye everybody, thanks for coming!

Chat from 7/24/19 NOAA/National Ocean Service webinar by James Morioka

Tracy Gill/Marylee Haughwout:

The seminar starts at 3pm EDT. The audio is over the computer (or voice over IP). If you cannot hear anything, turn up the volume on your computer speaker or headset. If you still cannot hear, log off and back on; sometimes that works. If you want to expand the presentation window, there is a small button with arrows to the upper right of the presentation; this will toggle the presentation size larger or smaller; you will lose the chat and captioning boxes if you toggle to the larger view, but you can always can always toggle back to smaller. If you are interested in viewing the video or obtaining a PDF of this presentation, please contact or

General chat comments posted inside Adobe Connect during the presentation:

Tracy Gill: Great video!

Sara Roberts: I'd love to get the recording of this webinar when we're finished if possible!

Tracy Gill: Hi Sara, Email me and I will send you a recording.

Annette DesRochers: will the presentation be available online?

Tracy Gill: Yes, the plan is to have the presentation and webinar on the website but you can also email me if you want a copy directly.

Michael Le: Hi Tracy, I would like a copy.  Thanks.

Tracy Gill: Hi Michael, It is easiest if you email me directly with your request.

Tracy Gill: If folks have any questions please feel free to type them in the chat box and we will get to them at the end.

Ya'el Seid-Green: Question for the end: 1) How long does it generally take to cover a .25 km survey square? 2) Is the marine debris distributed heterogeneously or relatively homogenously? -  would the amount of debris on un-surveyed areas be about the same as those surveyed?

Sherry Lippiatt: Thanks for a great presentation! It sounds like you are planning to analyze the shoreline data next year, but have you seen any preliminary trends in the amount or composition of debris?

Michael Le: Does the survey include microplastic onshore deposition and in the water column?

Ya'el Seid-Green: Thanks so much!

Brittney Wong: What do you think is the best way to prevent future/increase derelict fishing gear?

Laura Ingulsrud: Do you have data on the types of fishing gear you find? (e.g., crab/lobster traps, larger nets, fishing line)

Sara Roberts: we've all seen pictures of albatrosses eating and being affected by plastics on land - have you seen albatrosses harmed by entanglement offshore?

Matthew Clark: Is shore-based debris mainly based on what is clearly visible at the surface, or do you also account for possibly buried debris that may become exposed over time?

Marina Psaros: 70% of the nets you find are from trawl...did you say that's mostly trawl gear that originates in Hawaii?

Raquel Aki 2: Excellent presentation! Papahānaumokuākea is culturally significant to the native Hawaiian people and we mahalo you and your team for your hard work

Mark Manuel: No trawl fishery in Hawaii

Marina Psaros: thought so, I think I heard James incorrectly.

Mark Manuel: Yeah, longline is the main commercial fishing fleet

Marina Psaros: ok, makes sense! :)

Marina Psaros: which fishery?

Marina Psaros: (which fishery is the gear associated with, I mean)

Laura Ingulsrud: Are you able to track the general area the fishing gear originates from?

Marina Psaros: Super interesting presentation. The tow boards look SOOO FUN!  :)

Mark Manuel: Difficult to identify specific fishery. Any fishery (both domestic and international) utilizing trawl or purse seine gear could be responsible.

Annette DesRochers: AWESOME presentation! Thank you for sharing

James Morioka:

Tracy Gill: If you are interested in the open Marine Debris Program grant opportunity you can visit The opportunity is open until September 4.

Tracy Gill: This is for removal. We will have another FFO for prevention announced in September.

Jennifer Samson: Great presentation and excellent work protecting such a special place.

Sara Roberts: Thank you so much for all the hard work you've done to clean up these incredible islands.

Sara Roberts: James - did you say that you could share these great videos with us?

Sara Roberts: thank you!

Elzbieta (Ela) Gajewska: Thank you