Multi-Island Marine Debris Removal in the State of Hawaii

Volunteers on a beach.

Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund worked with neighbor island partners and the NOAA Marine Debris Program to conduct community-based marine debris cleanup events and patrols along remote stretches of Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i, Maui, and Lānaʻi coastlines.

Type of Project: Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant

Region: Pacific Islands

Project Dates: July 2016 - June 2018

Who is involved?
With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund partnered with Surfrider Foundation – Kaua‘i Chapter and Pūlama Lānaʻi to remove marine debris from the impacted coastlines of Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i, Maui, and Lānaʻi.

What is the project and why is it important?
The Hawaiian Archipelago is prone to accumulating a high volume of marine debris along its shorelines, in part due to its centralized location within the North Pacific Gyre. Currents bring debris from around the North Pacific to this area and strong onshore winds blow the debris onto particular coastal locations. Such debris items originate from locations around the Pacific (and beyond) and come in every shape and size imaginable, from tiny microplastics to large derelict vessels. This debris poses numerous threats to marine wildlife that include entanglement, ingestion, and habitat degradation, and may act as a potential vector for invasive species and pathogens.

Through this project, the Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund lead cleanup activities and derelict fishing net or large debris patrols. They aimed to reduce the likelihood of these negative threats to Hawaii’s protected species by removing as much debris as possible from over 200 miles of coastline on four different islands, while simultaneously engaging hundreds of community volunteers around the state. This involvement and engagement brought further awareness about marine debris to various stakeholders (such as fishermen, residents, visitors, tour operators, local business owners, and government representatives) and inspired stewardship of our protected marine species and their habitats, as well as provided training opportunities for new scientists, managers, and community members. This project removed approximately 55 metric tons (about 120,000 pounds) of marine debris which was recycled, reused, or properly disposed of through various support programs such as the Nets-to-Energy Program.