Meeting the Marine Debris Problem with Perseverance in the Pacific

Posted Wed, 02/01/2023 - 11:00

Marine debris of all types continue to be a problem for island communities across the Pacific. Derelict fishing gear entangles important wildlife and damages coral reefs. Consumer goods, such as plastic bottles and takeout containers, continue to enter our waterways and ocean. Debris created by large storms can be challenging to remove and dispose of, and can cause damage long after the event has passed. Despite the marine debris problem in the Pacific, dedicated organizations and ocean stewards are working on projects to remove derelict fishing gear, clean up typhoon debris, offer alternatives to commonly used single-use plastic items, and much more. The NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to support these partners and projects throughout the Pacific Islands region

 Debris, including rope, plastic bottles, and various pieces of plastic, are strewn across a rocky coastline.
Debris on a Hawai‘i Island beach prior to clean up (Photo Credit: Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund).

Removal is critical to eliminating the immediate threat debris presents in the marine environment. Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund is working with partners to remove derelict fishing gear and other large marine debris from remote coastlines on Kaua‘i, Maui, and Hawai‘i Island. The Hawai‘i Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research started a derelict fishing gear bounty program that provides commercial fishers the opportunity to trade gear they find at sea for money. Collected nets and other gear will be used for research and recycling projects. Across the Pacific, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance is working to remove debris left in the wake of Super Typhoon Yutu from the islands of Saipan and Tinian. Their work is supported through the Hurricane Response Marine Debris Removal Fund, a partnership between the NOAA Marine Debris Program and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Through education, our partners across the Pacific are working to prevent marine debris and develop a deep sense of stewardship in their communities to help address the problem for years to come. The NOAA Marine Debris Program is supporting the expansion of the NOAA Office of National Marine SanctuariesOcean Guardian School Program’s reach in the Pacific with a Guam pilot project. Students and teachers at Simon A. Sanchez High School and John F. Kennedy High School are working on respective projects that prevent marine debris to protect local watersheds. In Hawai‘i, Parley Foundation is implementing a marine debris prevention initiative focused on the impacts of derelict fishing gear and single-use plastics. Project partners are hosting Ocean Stewardship Clinics and beach cleanups that take underserved youth directly to the ocean to learn about environmental issues and to visit the Parley AIR Station, a collaborative community hub dedicated to inspiring action for the ocean, where they participate in educational presentations, interactive social events, and upcycling workshops.

Students get ready to clean trash along a fence line.
Students from John F. Kennedy High School organized and participated in a community cleanup event near their campus (Credit: John F. Kennedy High School Ocean Guardian School Program).

Along with education, tools that support marine debris prevention are needed to aid communities in this overarching effort. Arizona State University and American Samoa Community College students are exploring sustainable options to replace regularly used single-use plastic takeout containers, working with local businesses to pilot alternatives, and spreading awareness of the impacts of single-use plastics through public service announcements and community outreach. The Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks is working to install water bottle filling stations in 19 parks throughout the islands to encourage the reduction of single-use plastics being used in the parks. They are also developing an accompanying educational video and hosting cleanup events.

Marine debris educators meet with a group at the Parley AIR Station.
Parley AIR Station educators connecting with a community group, explaining the marine debris upcycling initiative (Credit: Kate Doblier).

With perseverance and passion, these organizations are working to protect their Pacific Island communities from marine debris and its impacts. Subscribe to the Hawai‘i Marine Debris Action Plan newsletter and the Pacific Islands Marine Debris newsletter to continue to learn more about these projects and other efforts throughout the Pacific. Come back to our blog later this month for a guest blog from our partners at the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance!

Meeting the Marine Debris Problem with Perseverance in the Pacific

Posted Wed, 02/01/2023 - 11:00

For citation purposes, unless otherwise noted, this article was authored by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

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Wed, 02/01/2023 - 13:47

Its great that you are so involved in the plastic pollution impacting the Pacific region, however why are you not working with Ocean Voyages Institute? Year in and year out they seem to be the most successful cleanup operation and are removing hundreds of thousands of pounds of ghostnets and plastic with each cleanup. The fact they are doing this using sailing vessels and not using massive amounts of fossil fuels makes their successes even more remarkable.

R Hughes

Fri, 02/03/2023 - 12:26

I agree with Beth. I see news stories all the time about organizations talking about the problem of ocean plastic and getting big funding but it seems only a couple actually do anything constructive with the monies. NOAA should be working with organizations that have proven track records removing the nets from the ocean. I have heard of Parley but I do not ever remember reading about them actually removing anything from the ocean. The other organization I am sure are great but in doing a google search I cannot find any news stories about them accomplishing any real cleanups of plastic at sea. I was in Honolulu a couple years ago when Ocean Voyages brought in a ship load of plastic nets and met some of the crew who were being interviewed. It was amazing to watch them unload the nets with cranes lifting nets over 40 feet in length and each must of weighed 10 tons or more. I also have followed the work of Ocean Cleanup but they seem to have huge amounts of money and their results have been mixed thus far from what I can tell. There are lots of organizations like Ocean Conservancy doing great things on shore like beach cleanups and educating people as to the problem, but in terms of actually picking up the stuff from the ocean there seems to only be a couple organizations able to accomplish this. I hope NOAA supports them with information, logistics and funding!