Marine Debris in the

Pacific Islands

Marine debris litters the Kanapou Coast.

The main Hawaiian islands and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument are prone to accumulating marine debris because of their central location in the North Pacific Gyre. Marine debris threatens coral reef and shoreline ecosystems, while also posing as an entanglement threat to endangered Hawaiian monk seals, humpback whales, and the threatened green sea turtles. Additionally, marine debris destroys habitats, introduces non-native species, and threatens navigation. The NOAA Marine Debris Program works with local partners to address marine debris in the Pacific Islands through removals and prevention through education and outreach. The Pacific Island Region includes the entire Hawaiian archipelago and the territories American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Hawaii Wildlife Fund volunteers clean up the Big Island during the ICC.

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Abandoned and Derelict Vessel information for states in the Pacific Islands region:

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In September 2014, a team from NOAA embarked on a 33-day mission aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette to remove derelict fishing nets and plastics from the sensitive reefs, shallow waters, and shorelines of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

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The NOAA Marine Debris Program offers several nationwide, competitive funding opportunities for marine debris projects. These include: marine debris removal grants; prevention through education and outreach grants; and research grants. Learn more about these opportunities.

Tsunami debris began arriving on U.S. shores in the winter of 2011-2012 and has continued washing ashore in a scattered fashion ever since, mixing in with chronic marine debris. This pattern will likely continue. Beachgoers may notice an increase in debris on beaches, in addition to marine debris that normally washes up, depending on where ocean currents carry it.