Cleaning Up Our Oceanic Mess

“By ensuring that trash and plastics from your local area doesn’t end up in the ocean and reducing the amount of waste you generate, you can help reduce marine debris.” - Jean-Michel Cousteau

Two weeks ago, on July 13th, the Coast Guard cutter Walnut off-loaded 32 tons of fishing nets and other trash collected from the reefs of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  This area was declared a National Monument three years ago, shortly after the Ocean Futures expedition team spent five weeks there filming the PBS documentary “Voyage to Kure”.  

Teaming up with U.S. Army engineer dive teams, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Coast Guard used a combination of the ship’s crane, divers and lift bags to haul the debris off the reef and onto the ship.  The refuse will be shredded and then converted to energy by the Hawaiian Electric Company at its co-generation plant. 

Since 1996, over 540 metric tons of refuse has been removed from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  Much of this refuse comes from derelict fishing nets, which continue to choke reefs and ensnare monk seals, turtles and other animals long after they have been abandoned by their owners.  However, the responsibility for this debris also rests on the shoulders of each one of us.  Plastics from all over the world end up on these islands, considered some the most isolated in the world.  It is estimated that 52 tons of marine debris enters the monument each year. 

By ensuring that trash and plastics from your local area doesn’t end up in the ocean and reducing the amount of waste you generate, you can help reduce this number.