Members of the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, and the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant Program have just returned from a joint mission to remove thousands of pounds of deadly marine debris from the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.
The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut, a 225-ft. buoy tender home ported in Honolulu, departed on Aug. 22 for a 1,000 mile trip to the remote islands of Pearl and Hermes Atoll. Their goal was to remove as much lethal marine debris as possible. Walnut's crew removed 21,110 pounds of fishing net and other marine trash from more than 60 sites across the atoll using the ship's crane, lift bags, divers and just plain elbow grease.
The Kukui, another 225-ft. Coast Guard cutter from Honolulu, joined the debris recovery effort on Sept. 7. The Kukui's crew first traveled to Maro Reef and has removed more than seven tons of trash on its travel back to Oahu. The Kukui will be returning to Coast Guard Integrated Support Command Honolulu on Monday to offload the debris.
NOAA’s Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center's (PIFSC) Coral Reef Ecosystem
Division (CRED) provided technical support using geographical information systems to survey, locate, and provide expertise on removing marine debris. The NOAA representatives created daily survey plans, recommended navigation to the specified reefs and directed Coast Guard divers in debris surveys and data collection procedures. The vessel Freebird has been chartered by NOAA to resume debris removal efforts for September through November of this year, focusing their attention at French Frigate Shoals.