Featured Image Credit: NOAA
By: Jessica Kittel
Trash on Hawaiian beaches is no minor issue. Marine debris, especially plastic and derelict fishing gear, is becoming more and more prevalent in the coastal and marine habitats surrounding the islands. Not only is it tragic to see formerly pristine beaches covered with pieces of plastic and other trash, it also poses potentially lethal effects on the health of local wildlife.
Fish, birds, turtles, and other marine creatures have been found with stomachs full of trash. (Cite pifsc.noaa.gov) Larger marine mammals, including the endangered Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi), are especially susceptible to lethal entanglement within derelict fishing gear. This marine debris also affects the health of the reefs themselves and therefore harms the coral reef residents.
The Hawaiian Archipelago is especially susceptible to marine debris accumulation thanks to its central location in the North Pacific Gyre. The North Pacific Gyre is a main ocean current that moves in a clockwise, circular pattern and therefore circulates debris from all over the North Pacific Rim.
Thankfully, people aren’t taking this sitting down. (Cite kitv.com) The non-profit organization Sustainable Coastlines teamed up with multiple other non-profits to try to make a dent in the marine debris issue. Volunteers painstakingly sorted through large piles of marine debris (I bet that smelled wonderful) that had been collected over a period of six months from Oahu’s shores and from the National Marine Monument Papahanaumokuakea. The goal was to extricate the plastic items from the other materials in order to keep it out of landfills as well as the ocean.
They were able to collect over 100,00 pounds of marine debris and from there recycled as much of the plastic as possible with the hope of repurposing it to create plastic items.
However, even with this effort there is still a lot to be done. Luckily these volunteers and non-profits seem to be up to the task.
Learn more from our source.