Stretching for 1,200 miles northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands is a chain of remote islands and atolls known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Centrally located in the North Pacific Gyre, currents carry marine debris from all around the Pacific to these pristine, mostly uninhabited shores. Follow NOAA scientists as they travel island to island, removing marine debris from the shorelines of the Papahanāumokuākea Marine National Monument. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
Start of 2016 Efforts
Since 1996, NOAA Fisheries and multiple agency partners have conducted surveys and removal of marine debris in the NWHI on a nearly annual basis. The 2016 efforts will be focused on the debris removal from the shorelines of the NWHI, starting at Midway Atoll. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
Midway Atoll, located on the far northwestern end of the Hawaiian Archipelago, is a circular shaped atoll with three small islets (Sand, Eastern, and Spit). The atoll provides nesting habitat for millions of seabirds, including the world’s largest population of albatrosses. Read more about Midway Atoll. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
Sand Island, Midway
On April 13, 2016, a toy motorcycle was found on the North Beach of Sand Island, Midway Atoll. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
On April 14, the team was able to finish building the two 17' inflatable Zodiac MKIV work boats. The boats will be used to remove marine debris from the shorelines of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
On April 15, 2016, the team members started removing derelict fishing gear and plastics from the shorelines of Eastern Island. A Laysan Albatross chick was found perching on a pile of derelict fishing net. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
The team continued removing debris from the shorelines of Eastern Island on April 16, 2016. The team members hauled a large net conglomerate into a small boat. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Ryan Tabata.
Laysan Albatross Chick
On April 17, 2016, a Marine Debris team member disentangled a Laysan Albatross chick from derelict fishing net and debris on the western shore of Eastern Island. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Ryan Tabata.
The Marine Debris team removed a large bundle of thin plastic film weighing 270 kg (594 lbs.) from the southeastern shoreline of Eastern Island on April 18, 2016. The thin plastic film is often mistaken as food by threatened green sea turtles. The team was able to remove 100% of the film! Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Ryan Tabata.
On April 19, 2016, the team removed debris from the western tip of Eastern Island. The shoreline was cleaned and both boats were fully loaded. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Ryan Tabata.
Eastern Island, Completed
A pair of mom and pup Hawaiian monk seal was found lying next to a large derelict fishing net. The team removed the net when the pair playfully relocated down the shoreline. After 6 days of digging and pushing, the team finished surveying and removing all debris larger than bottle cap size from the shorelines of Eastern Island! Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Ryan Tabata.
On April 21, 2016, the team moved operations from Eastern Island to Spit Island, the smallest of the three islands of Midway Atoll. Here they continued their efforts of surveying and cleaning the debris from the shoreline. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Ryan Tabata.
After the team removed debris weighing 1,115kg (2453 lbs) from the shorelines of Sand Island, the team celebrates finishing up marine debris removals from all three islands (Sand, Spit, and Eastern Islands) at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge on April 22, 2016. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Ryan Tabata.
On April 23, 2016, the team sorted debris removed from the shorelines of Midway Atoll. Sixty percent of the 7077 kg (15602 lbs) debris collected has been sorted and tallied, and a total of 366 disposable cigarette lighters have been counted. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/David Slater.
With the help of volunteers from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Marine Debris team has completed sorting the derelict fishing gear, plastics and other litter collected over the last eight operational days from the three islands of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/David Slater.
The Marine Debris team closes out removal efforts at Midway Atoll, where a total of 12,030 lbs of derelict fishing nets and 8,000 lbs of plastics were removed from the shorelines. For the next phase of the 2016 Mission the team will be moving onboard the NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai to continue marine debris removal at the other islands and atolls of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Program Marine Debris team lead, James Marioka, navigates one of the inflatable boats full of derelict fishing nets away from Kure Atoll. The abandoned gear will be loaded onto NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai for transport back to Honolulu along with the rest of the debris collected during the mission. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
On April 30, 2016, the team returned to Midway Atoll for one day to clean up 2,256 lbs of marine debris from Turtle Beach on the northern shoreline of Sand Island at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
Fishing nets, lost from the decks of fishing vessels, drift through the ocean until they are caught on shallow coral reefs around islands and atolls. Once snagged, the large nets entangle and smother the coral. The forces of waves and storms tear the nets away, breaking off portions of the reef and leaving a path of destruction. This large net was removed from Seal-Kittery Island of Pearl and Hermes Atoll. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
After crossing the vast maze of coral reefs in the lagoon, the team conducted operations on North Island of Pearl and Hermes Atoll. Here they found four wedgetail shearwater birds had died after becoming stuck in a hagfish cone trap. The Marine Debris team was able to rescue a surviving fifth bird caught in the trap. Another example showing how a single piece of derelict fishing gear or debris can have a major impact on these remote places. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
A group of Spinner Dolphins escorted the Marine Debris team during their 21 kilometer transit through the interior of Pearl and Hermes Atoll back to the NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai. On May 3, 2016 the team completed operations at Pearl and Hermes after removing 2,100 lb of derelict fishing nets from the shoreline of Southeast Island. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
On May 4, 2016 the Marine Debris team was able to remove 2,500 lb of derelict fishing nets from the shoreline of Lisianski Island. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
French Frigate Shoals
The Marine Debris team conducted operations on Tern Island of French Frigate Shoals on May 7, 2016. The team collected the debris off the shorelines, contained in bagsters, and out of harms way for the wildlife. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
After a long transit, the NOAA ship Hi'ialakai returned to Pearl Harbor, Honolulu on May 13, 2016. The Marine Debris team collected over 20,000 lb of marine debris from Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
The Marine Debris team hosted an outreach and education event on May 20, 2016 at Inouye Regional Center, Pearl Harbor. Students from several schools of Oahu learned the marine debris issues and helped the team sorting the debris collected from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
Funding for these efforts was provided by Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, NOAA Marine Debris Program and Damage Assessment Remediation and Restoration Program. Additional support was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Hawaii, our partners in the Hawaii's Nets to Energy Program, including Schnitzer Steel Hawaii Corp., Covanta Energy and the City and County of Honolulu, and many other partners. Thank you! Photo: NOAA Fisheries.