DLNR NEWS RELEASE: Statewide survey of marine debris shows plastic is most prevalent

Posted on May 31, 2016 in Latest News

Aerial Survey Targeted At Japan Tsunami Marine Debris

(HONOLULU) – It’s heartbreaking to see a marine mammal tangled up in derelict fishing line. It’s sad to see an otherwise beautiful Hawaiian beach covered in a vast array of plastic. It’s telling when the stomach contents of seabirds often show they’ve ingested these plastics. Marine debris can have numerous impacts on the natural environment, many of them detrimental to the overall health of the ecosystem.

A Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR) and North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) commissioned aerial survey of all coastlines in the main eight Hawaiian Islands shows, not surprisingly that plastic items constitute most of the marine debris landing on our shores. The study, “Japanese Tsunami Marine Debris Aerial Imagery Analysis and GIS Support in the main Hawaiian Islands,” was funded by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan as part of the Japan Tsunami Gift Fund awarded to western states, including Hawai’i.

Kirsten Moy, DLNR’s Marine Debris Coordinator in the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), explained, “In order to characterize the potential ecological consequences of tsunami and other debris, it’s important to quantify it. Understanding the types, sizes and locations of debris accumulating on Hawaiian coastlines is crucial in developing plans to streamline removal and mitigate negative impacts.”

Aerial surveys were conducted between August and November, 2015. The study found that 38% of the total debris identified in aerial surveys of the Main Hawaiian Islands is on Niihau, likely due to its position in the island chain and the particular ocean currents surrounding it. All other islands had 14% or less of the debris identified, with O’ahu having the least density at only 5%.”  Moy added, “This could be a reflection of continuous beach clean-ups conducted by local residents and conservation organizations.”

Suzanne Case, DLNR Chair commented, “This survey found a very limited amount of debris associated with the Japan tsunami. Most of what was mapped is common, everyday items that someone haphazardly tossed onto the ground or directly into the water. These items get caught up in ocean currents and unfortunately much of it eventually lands, mostly on north and east facing shores. Hawai’i is recognized around the world for our beautiful beaches. Unfortunately we cannot say they are pristine, because they’ve been so seriously impacted by our trash.”

Following is a synopsis of what the survey found on each island with more detail available in the ‘Resources’ section below:

Oahu-Imagery analysis identified a total of 984 pieces of marine debris.  Most common type was plastic (63%). Marine debris was concentrated on the northern tip of the island, particularly around Kahuku.

Maui-Imagery analysis identified a total of 1,749 pieces of marine debris. Most common type was plastic (40%).  Marine debris was concentrated on the northern side of the island, particularly around Kahului.

Hawaii-Imagery analysis identified a total of 2,200 pieces of marine debris.  Most common type was plastic (52%).  Marine debris was concentrated on the southeastern tip of the island, particularly around Kamilo Point.

Kauai-Imagery analysis identified a total of 1,849 pieces of marine debris.  Most common type was plastic (49%). Marine debris was concentrated on the eastern shores of the island, particularly at the northern and southern extents.

Molokai-Imagery analysis identified a total of 2,878 pieces of marine debris.  Most common types were plastic (37%) and buoys & floats (35%). Marine debris was concentrated on north western shores and a small area on the northeastern corner of the island.

Kahoolawe-Imagery analysis identified a total of 1,298 pieces of marine debris. Most common type was plastic (47%).  Marine debris was concentrated on the northern tip of the island and in the Keoneuli area on the eastern coast.

Lanai-Imagery analysis identified a total of 1,829 pieces of marine debris.  Most common type was plastic (53%).  Marine debris was concentrated on the northeast coast of the island.

Niihau-Imagery analysis identified a total of 7,871 pieces of marine debris.  Most common type was plastic (46%), followed by buoys and floats (25%).  Niihau had the great debris densities on east-facing shores.

In addition to plastic, buoys and floats, the surveys identified derelict fishing gear, foam, tires and “other” types of debris, including wood, metal, cloth and vessels.

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RESOURCES: (All images and video courtesy: Hawaii DLNR)

See the full report here:
http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/files/2016/05/Tsunami_Debris_MHI_Report.pdf

HD video and SOTS, marine debris, Kahuku, O’ahu:

https://vimeo.com/168386296

Video news release:

https://vimeo.com/168839260

High-resolution photographs of marine debris, Kahuku, O’ahu & Japan Tsunami boats:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/3bg7yhi9ptnl4mt/AAAQrgXwJoEAqCj_Cv0NAVOva?dl=0

Media Contact:

Dan Dennison

Senior Communications Manager

Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources

Office of the Chairperson

1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 131

Honolulu, HI 96813

(808) 587-0407

Dan.w.dennison@hawaii.gov