Marine Debris Cleanups

It’s been a couple weeks since the NOAA Marine Debris crew has left the island and the beaches are starting to show it. Yuki and I decided to start cleaning up the north end of the island near cargo pier. We started cleaning the east side of the pier on Saturday and cleaned the west side on Sunday (along with a short length of beach west of the fuel pier).

This area west of the fuel pier was a challenge since much of the plastic debris was stuck among the rocks used as a seawall buffer. These rocks ensnared many nylon nets that were virtually impossible to remove without knives.

DCIM106GOPROYuki and I with a load of marine debris from the beach.

_DSC0017West of cargo pier (before)

_DSC0028West of cargo pier (after)

Cleaning up the beaches is a little bittersweet. Aesthetically, they look far better than they did prior to us putting in the hard work. Unfortunately there is still so much plastic in the form of small-to-tiny fragments (also known as microplastics) that you cannot realistically remove with your bare hands. At minimum, removing the larger pieces means that they won’t have the opportunity to break down or degrade into hundreds or possibly thousands of smaller fragments.

_DSC0023Taking a quick break from cleanup duties prior to grabbing lunch (Yuki and Rob Taylor pictured)

Before the NOAA Marine Debris team left on the research vessel Hi’ialakai, I was able to assist them with sorting the various types of plastic fragments for data collection. In total, they were able to remove roughly 12,000 pounds of fishing nets and 8,000 pounds of plastic debris. I had a lot of fun meeting and working with this group and hope to see them in the future. You can follow their progress by visiting their NOAA storymap page.

13062147_10153592886709677_6010872191232122655_nPhoto by David Slater / NOAA

Questions or comments? Email me: james (at)