Removal and Restoration on Alaska’s Forrester Island Complex

A person next to a large pile of collected marine debris on a rocky shoreline.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is leading groups of trained and experienced volunteers and staff to remove marine debris from unique and rugged shorelines of the Forrester Island complex within the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge.

Type of Project: Removal

Region: Alaska

Project Dates: January 2022 - December 2023

Who is involved?
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, with the support of partners and the NOAA Marine Debris program, is building upon their history of knowledge and work in the Forrester Island complex to remove debris from the remote and unique island chain. Alaska General Seafoods is supporting sustainable disposal by transporting debris for recycling and reuse. Sultan Qaboos University and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research are providing additional research support to better understand the condition of the debris that is removed.

What is the project and why is it important?
This project focuses on the removal of marine debris on shorelines along Lowrie, Forrester, and Petrel Island, off of Southeast Alaska. These islands are part of the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge, and provide important habitat for a broad assortment of wildlife. Based on their locations, they also collect a significant amount of marine debris. 

To address this marine debris, paid and volunteer staff are traveling to beaches from a base of operations on Lowrie Island and will access target beaches by small boat. Once ashore, the teams collect marine debris, place it into bags, and then remove the debris for later sorting, counting, and other measurement at a separate location. Once collected and counted, debris is sorted for recycling and reuse, while remaining debris is sent to a landfill. Collected debris is then hauled by an Alaska General Seafoods vessel to Ketchikan, Alaska, where it is then transported by Alaska Marine Lines to Seattle, where more disposal options are available. The project team is also collecting field samples of biofilm and microplastics for laboratory analysis. To raise awareness of marine debris issues, the project is also partnering with six schools in the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ Ocean Guardian School Program to conduct their own cleanups and data collection, echoing many of the techniques used in the Forrester Island cleanup and sharing information both through data collection and short videos.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.