Marine Debris in Hawai`i
By Carey Morishige
Special to the Northwest Hawai`i Times
The Hawaiian Archipelago, extending 1,500 miles, is one of the longest and most remote island chains in the world. The location of the Hawaiian Islands, including the recently designated Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, within a gyre (circular ocean current) of the North Pacific Ocean, makes them prone to accumulating floating debris. Each year, thousands of pounds of marine debris from domestic and foreign sources wash ashore and snag on reefs across the island chain. In Hawai`i as well as other parts of the world, marine debris continues to present a hazard to marine ecosystems, safe navigation, and wildlife, such as the endangered Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi).
Over the years many people have seen the effects of marine debris on our environment and resources, and have come forward to help do something. Agencies, businesses, and organizations from across the state and beyond have partnered on efforts ranging from cleanups to education and outreach.
One unique project to emerge from these partnerships is Hawai`i’s “debris to energy” program. Much of the marine debris found in Hawaii is derelict fishing nets. Large conglomerations of these nets, sometimes weighing thousands of pounds, are removed from Hawaii’s reefs and shores each year. To avoid adding these nets to already overflowing landfills, Hawai`i’s marine debris partners devised a unique program to recycle this marine debris into usable electricity. According to the Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, 100 tons of derelict net provides enough electricity to power 42 homes for a year! (See “Me”-cycling…by Howard Wiig.) Today, all NOAA-funded marine debris removal projects in Hawaii incorporate this recycling as a component for success.
One of the known threats of marine debris to animals is entanglement. Each year, some of the most dramatic entanglements are reported – entanglements of humpback whales. Hawaii is the only state in the United States where endangered humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) come to breed, calve, and nurse their young. Because of this significance, NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, was designated in 1992 to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaii. The sanctuary, working in conjunction with other NOAA offices, as well as the State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, has established the Hawaiian Islands Disentanglement Network to aid in the disentanglement of these large mammals which can grow to 45 feet long and weigh upwards of 45 tons. This Network is part of the larger Pacific Islands Marine Mammal Response Network headed by NOAA’s Pacific Islands Regional Office. These networks operate under the authorization of the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.
In spite of cleanup efforts, the marine debris problem in Hawaii and across the world remains. Much can and still needs to be done to address this issue which is one of the most common forms of water pollution. On December 22, 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act into law, formalizing the NOAA Marine Debris Program and establishing a centralized marine debris capability within NOAA to organize, strengthen, and increase the visibility of marine debris efforts within the agency, its partners, and the public.
The mission of the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) is to support a national and international effort focused on preventing, identifying, and reducing the occurrence of marine debris and to protect and conserve our nation’s natural resources, oceans, and coastal waterways from the impacts of marine debris. In Hawai`i, the Marine Debris Program works cooperatively with various NOAA offices as well as other marine debris partners to help protect Hawaii ’s environment from the impacts of marine debris. Currently, this Program has funded and is working in partnership with other NOAA offices on two educational marine debris exhibit projects in Hawai`i, and two large-scale debris removal efforts in the Northwestern and main Hawaiian Islands. These projects are part of a larger nationwide effort addressing marine debris in coastal areas throughout the United States.
The road ahead is long, especially for this island state in the middle of the Pacific Ocean battling one of the world’s most pervasive forms of marine pollution. However, through the ongoing efforts of NOAA programs, and with the support of partners and the public, the protection and conservation of our nation’s natural resources and coastal waterways will continue.
Carey Morishige, Pacific Islands Outreach Coordinator
For more information on marine debris and the NOAA Marine Debris Program, please visit: www.marinedebris.noaa.gov.
Also visit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: www.noaa.gov
NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary: www.hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov
Hawaii’s “debris to energy” program, State of Hawaii Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism: http://www.hawaii.gov/dbedt/info/energy/waste/
Hawaii State Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). 2006. Pollution Prevention Produces Power: Description of Hawaii ’s Innovative Program. Available online at http://www.hawaii.gov/dbedt/info/energy/waste/.
What can you do to help? First, don’t litter and restrict use of disposable plastic items. When you go to Hawai`i, you can volunteer for a day with the Surfrider Foundation to help clean up. Go to www.surfrider.org for more information.
From here, you can also join the Ocean Conservancy which organizes global coastal cleanup in the fall. www.oceanconservancy.org
By Howard C. Wiig
As you Northwest Hawaii folks slip on ice and conjure up images of sunshine and bikinis, remember that one reason you left Hawaii, is exemplified by Honolulu City’s “me”-cycling rather than recycling, to wit:
You cool-head Northwesterners might connect the dots this way:
Indeed, Hawaii can take some lessons from Northwest recycling efforts and find more creative ways to deal with its ever-growing trash problem
Hawai`i's Stray Nets Pay Debts
On the bright side, Hawaii ’s recycling of discarded fishing net is attracting worldwide admiration.
In the late 1990s the problem of stray fishing net eroding the reefs and entangling endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals of Hawaii’s Northwest Islands (not Washington and Oregon ) was addressed. The Coast Guard and NOAA joined forces, obtained funding, and cut the net free from the Northwest Islands reefs. The net was transported to Kewalo Basin thence to Oahu’s landfill where H-POWER agreed to burn the net to produce electricity and waive the $75 per ton tipping fee. However, the mountainous, tangled structure of the net meant it could not fit in H-POWER’s ramps to the furnaces so Hawaii Metal Recycling (HMR) agreed to cut the mountains of net into bite-sized chunks for H-POWER, at no cost.
Only one cutting machine and only one operator are necessary to efficiently cut the net, making it an estimated machine/operator cost of $250/hour.
HMR has received several awards from environmental groups, and with each award, increased their involvement. Now they haul the net from the ships, store it at their yard, cut the net, and transport it to H-POWER, all voluntarily.
The program attracted the attention of Harvard Business School’s prestigious Innovations In Government Awards Program and was awarded “Top 50” designation from over 1,000 entries. It was described in a peer-reviewed scientific article and has attracted attention worldwide and marine scientists from throughout the Pacific Basin have toured HMR and H-POWER. Senator Inouye introduced, and President Bush recently signed, a bill appropriating $15 million for marine debris cleanup along the lines of this program.
HMR was acquired by Schnitzer Steel and H-POWER is a branch of Covanta Energy, both of which have plants in the Pacific Northwest. It is hoped that Hawaii’s program can expand to the Northwest, and then to the East Coast, which has marine debris problems as well.
The Hawaii Longliners Association now voluntarily picks up “ghostnet”—discarded net floating on the ocean and headed for the Northwest islands—and deposits it in a special bin at Honolulu Harbor’s Pier 38. When the bin is full, Schnitzer Steel picks it up for processing.
.So while you first-world Northwest Hawai`i folks may decry third-world “me”-cycling at Honolulu City Hall, take pride that Hawaii leads the world in converting life-destroying driftnet to electricity-producing fuel at no cost to the taxpayer.
Howard Wiig was born and raised in Honolulu . He has a BA from the University of California-Berkeley and advance degrees from the University of Hawai`i-Mānoa. He has been an Energy Analyst for the State of Hawaii in the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism since 1976.
Crew Member E-mails Family in Washington
The Polynesian voyaging canoes Alingano Maisu and Hōkūle`a arrived in Majuro, the first landfall since leaving Hawai`i in January. After resting and replenishing supplies, they left Majuro for an estimated seven days of sailing to the next stop, Pohnpei. They will present the Alingano Maisu to Mau Piailug, master navigator who helped the Hawaiians revive their ancient tradition of navigation. The Maisu will be at its new home in Yap and the Hōkūle`a will stop in Japan before returning to Hawai`i.
Below is an exchange of email between Leona Lueders who lives in Federal Way, Washington and her brother Kawika Eskaran who is on the Hōkūle`a.
Leona: There are some things I pray for everyday--mostly for the safety of my husband, my children and that my grandchildren's parents raise them well. And these days, I also wait and watch for communication from my brother who is in the Pacific waiting to join the crew of the Hokule'a as it continues its trip.
I find it interesting. Most people can't just take 3 months off from work to just get on a canoe and sail all over the place, so there are several crews that are flown to different spots. As one crew goes home on the plane, another takes over the canoe responsibilities.
Although I know he feels honored at being chosen to be part of the crew, I worry a bit about his safety. It is a HUGE ocean! The Polynesian Voyaging Society has a good website with maps and charts of the number of miles for each leg of the trip and there is a web log where they check in from time to time. Some of the messages are in Hawaiian and it's cool that I can understand parts and pieces of them. Wherever the canoes land, they are open for classroom field trips, but with the website, classrooms all over the world can learn about voyaging canoes and keep up with the current sailings. It is awesome to think that our people were doing these kinds of voyages when Europe was in medieval times!
This is the message I received from my brother… ya gotta love computers!!
Kawika Eskaran is a master carver and built the "Iosepa" voyaging canoe at the BYU-Hwai`i campus with Tongan carver Tupou. He teaches from the canoe, and in the "off season" he grows indigenous plants as part of the Hawaiian Studies program at the college.
Leona Lueders lives in Federal Way, Washington where she is a student in `oli, `olelo and hula at Keala O Kamailelauli`ili`i.
Leona and Kawika are graduates of the Kamehameha Schools.
For more photos, follow this link.
To follow the journey of the canoes, go to the Polynesian Voyaging Society website at www.pvs.hawaii.org
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