Marine Debris Removal on Kaho′olawe
KIRC volunteers cleaning the beach.
KIRC volunteers cleaning the beach.

Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC), a division of the State of Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources, targeted marine debris accumulations on Kaho‘olawe Island.

Project Dates: July 2013 - February 2015

What’s the project?
Kaho'olawe Island Reserve is the second-largest marine reserve in Hawai'i, after the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Because of surrounding currents and their funneling effect, Kaho'olawe is under the constant threat of marine debris.

KIRC protects and restores the reserve’s cultural and environmental resources, and it is only open to the public for two scheduled weekends each month. Unfortunately, marine debris poses a threat to the protected area’s fish, rare plants, endangered animals and other marine life that call the reserve home.

Who is involved?
With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, KIRC led the removal of an estimated 10 tons of high-priority, non-re-accumulating debris to enhance this important coastal and marine habitat.

What does it accomplish?
This project team restored 2.82 acres of severely debris-impacted beaches during five clean-up events, and diverted four tons of marine debris from local landfills. Each event required four days each due to the rugged, physical terrain of where debris builds. Aerial surveys were used to assess accumulation rates around the island, and local fishermen partook in the efforts to clean-up this island. Special workshops on the effect of derelict gear were part of at least six public outreach events included in this project.

What’s something unique about the project?
The cleanups require extra precaution and safety planning. Kaho'olawe is the smallest of the eight Main Hawaiian Islands, and because of its use from 1947-1990 by the U.S. Navy for military training exercises, its surrounding waters are still littered with unexploded ordnance.