Three people stand on a small boat and are seen pulling a large mass of nets out of the water onto the vessel.

Removing Large Scale Debris in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

In partnership with NOAA and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project is conducting yearly missions to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to remove large-scale marine debris, primarily derelict fishing gear, from the remote islands.

Type of Project: Removal

Region: Pacific Islands

Project Dates: July 2022 - June 2027

Who is involved?
With funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the NOAA Marine Debris Program is supporting a five-year grant to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to remove derelict fishing gear and other large shoreline debris from the islets and atolls of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. This project is being carried out on the ground by the Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project (PMDP). The $5.8 million grant to NFWF is matched by a private donor, totaling $12 million to support PMDP’s operations. Additional project support is being provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

What is the project and why is it important?
The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (monument) is one of the most remote places in the world and the largest contiguous marine protected area in the United States. Papahānaumokuākea is incredibly significant in Hawaiian culture - in the Kumulipo (Hawaiian creation chant), Papahānaumokuākea is the origin place of all life and the direct ancestor of the Native Hawaiian people.

Due to the geographic location of Hawai‘i in the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of thousands of pounds of marine debris, primarily derelict fishing gear and consumer plastics, collect around the islands of the monument each year from all over the Pacific. Derelict fishing gear poses a deadly threat to this critical habitat and the over 7,000 species of wildlife that call the monument home, including the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. It is estimated that 80% of the Hawaiian monk seal population and 90% of the threatened Hawaiian green sea turtle population live and breed within the monument. NOAA has conducted missions with partners to the monument to clean up and remove marine debris since 1996. Through this grant, NOAA’s more than 20-year legacy of marine debris removal in the monument is continuing through the work of NFWF and PMDP.  

This funding will continue until 2026, supporting nine debris removal missions to the monument. PMDP plans to use this funding to continue to scale the project to “catch up and keep up” with the ongoing accumulation of marine debris within the monument. Three missions already took place across 2022 and 2023, with PMDP removing more than 318,000 pounds of debris from shorelines and coral reefs. By 2026, PMDP is aiming to remove 500 metric tons of debris from the monument. 

Last updated Fri, 10/27/2023 - 02:55 pm EDT