Photo Journal: Taking Out Trash

September 12, 2018

Photos from the 2018 field mission to remove marine debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Marine debris team cleans up derelict fishing nets from the shores of Midway Atoll.

Stretching 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 Ocean to these beautiful, mostly uninhabited shores.

Follow our scientists as they travel island to island, removing marine debris from underwater reefs and shorelines of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Training

Small boat training in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu

Our team is training all week in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu. They are preparing to maneuver small boats around reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Rhonda Suka)

Back to school

Some of the scientists visited schools in Oahu to share their knowledge about marine debris and its threats to wildlife and ecosystems, and introduce NOAA's marine debris removal efforts. Teaching young students about marine debris is very important to prevent the problem in the future. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Rhonda Suka)

The team visited schools around Oahu to share their knowledge about marine debris and its threats to wildlife and ecosystems and to introduce this year's marine debris removal efforts. Teaching young students about marine debris is key to preventing the problem in the future. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Rhonda Suka)

Packing up

Stacks of gear and supplies are labeled, organized, and carefully packed.

Being prepared is essential for safe and successful shipboard and field operations in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Everything has to be labeled, inventoried, and organized. As soon as all the equipment and gear is loaded on the ship, we will be ready for the mission. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Tomoko Acoba)

Smooth sailing

Marine debris team on the pier in front of the NOAA Ship Sette

On Wednesday, September 19th, the team set sail aboard the NOAA Ship Sette. From Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, they begin the 1,200-mile transit to their first stop at Pearl and Hermes Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Ray Boland)

Ships in the night

NOAA Ship Sette transits at night

The NOAA Ship Sette transits past Maro Reef and will soon pass Laysan Island. We have enjoyed beautiful weather and relatively calm seas. Over 3 days of transit, our team is preparing boats and equipment to arrive at Pearl and Hermes Atoll for our first operational day. In the evening, we gather on the bow for sunset, practicing breath-holding techniques and watching the abundant sea birds hunt for evening meals. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Dinner

Red footed booby bird catches a flying fish in flight

Our team photographer Steven Gnam braced himself against the waves on the ship's bow for more than two hours to capture this adult red-footed booby bird as it caught and devoured one of the many flying fish that our ship scares into flight. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Flying By

Flying fish getting some serious hang time

Flying fish getting some serious hang time. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

From above 

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We headed out shortly after sunrise to make the most of our first daylight hours of operations at Pearl and Hermes Atoll. We focused on the southeast side of the labyrinth of coral reefs at the atoll. Our divers found a derelict fishing net and carefully removed it from the reef while the boat crew recorded its size and location. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Dive surveys

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NOAA divers conduct a swim survey to look for derelict fishing nets on the reefs at Pearl and Hermes Atoll. One diver swims along the reef edge while the other diver surveys the interior and in-between. Sea turtles and large reef fish are often curious, swimming by to investigate these new creatures in their underwater habitat. Our four boat teams were very successful at Pearl and Hermes today, bringing in a total of 2,111 kilograms (4,654 pounds) of derelict fishing nets. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

A ton of net

A metric ton of net is lifted from the small boat to the NOAA Ship by crane

This is a metric ton of derelict fishing net! The marine debris divers carefully remove nets from reefs, pile them onto small boats, and then motor them to the NOAA ship where they are craned onboard for transport back to Honolulu. Today, we removed a total of 2,550 kilograms (5,622 pounds) of fishing nets from the coral reefs around Pearl and Hermes Atoll. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/James Morioka)

Rain, rain go away

James Morioka dives down to carefully remove a monster net from the reef at Pearl and Hermes Atoll

It was a very windy, rainy few days out here at Pearl and Hermes Atoll. We are lucky to have the help of the Sette see people very often, if at all. It is not uncommon for a variety of fish species to follow our divers while they work. This is a photo of a very curious ulua or giant trevally. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Ari Halperin)

Monster nets

The team motors back on a small boat to the NOAA Ship Sette

It can take up to three boats and multiple trips to remove the "monster" derelict fishing nets from the reef. After a long day of swim surveys and hauling nets, the crew of the small boat "Manawai" heads back to their home away from home, the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Nets from above 

Here you can see aerial footage of our Marine Debris boat as well as two divers surveying a large net exposed and lying on top of the reef (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam).

Here you can see aerial footage of our marine debris boat as well as two divers surveying a large net exposed and lying on top of the reef. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Freeing the reef 

The net has been removed from the reef. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam).

The net has been removed from the reef. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Leaving scars 

Here you can see the very obvious scar the net has left on the reef. Coral needs a combination of sunlight and food from the surrounding waters to survive. The coral underneath this net has died but hopefully new recruits can settle on this area and repopulate this section of the reef in the future. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Here you can see the very obvious scar the net has left on the reef. Coral needs a combination of sunlight and food from the surrounding waters to survive. The coral underneath this net has died but hopefully new recruits can settle on this area and repopulate this section of the reef in the future. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

High fives

The team celebrates successfully removing another net from the reef

After about an hour of carefully cutting and pulling giant derelict fishing nets off the reef, the team celebrates with high fives all around. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Maui's Hook 

A striking aerial view of a section of the Pearl and Hermes Atoll. A part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the reef area of this atoll spans over 450 square miles (194,000 acres).(Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

A striking aerial view of a section of the Pearl and Hermes Atoll. A part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the reef area of this atoll spans over 450 square miles (194,000 acres).(Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Follow the sand berm!On the north end of the Atoll near the sand berm, divers Schem and Pomatat check out the drop off, a hot spot where derelict fishing nets collect. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam).

On the north end of the Atoll near the sand berm, divers Schem and Pomatat check out the drop off, a hot spot where derelict fishing nets collect. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Calm before the storm

A boat full of marine debris transiting out of the small boat channel towards the NOAA Ship Sette

We had the last of the perfect weather here at Pearl and Hermes Atoll as Hurricane Walaka approached from the south. The team increased their hours and took FULL advantage of these last beautiful "glassy" days. We were able to clean up more than 22,000 pounds of debris in 3 days of operations. Here is a boat full of marine debris transiting out of the small boat channel, towards the NOAA Ship Sette. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Sunset congratulations

The team joined the ship's crew on the bow at sunset to honor and congratulate NOAA Corps Ensign Tim Holland’s promotion

The team joined the ship's crew on the bow at sunset to honor and congratulate NOAA Corps Ensign Tim Hollands promotion to Lieutenant (junior grade). (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Midway Atoll

Biking on Midway

The hurricane brought some large swell and stronger winds to Pearl and Hermes Atoll. Our team leaders and the Sette's captain decided we should transit a day early to Midway Atoll. The marine debris team disembarked NOAA Ship Sette and received a warm welcome from the Fish and Wildlife Service and Chugach staff that take care of the Midway Atoll.  (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Kristen Kelly)

This is how we roll

The marine debris team saw the NOAA Ship Sette off to Honolulu and prepared for our first day of debris removal on Eastern Island, one of the smaller islands in Midway Atoll.

The marine debris team saw the NOAA Ship Sette off to Honolulu and prepared for our first day of debris removal on Eastern Island, one of the smaller islands in Midway Atoll. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Impacts on reef

NOAA scientists attempt to measure the impacts of fishing nets on the coral reefs for the first time in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. We employ an underwater "structure from motion" technique to capture images of the reef before and after we remove nets. We will process hundreds of photos to create three-dimensional models of the nets and reefs. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Rhonda Suka)

NOAA scientists attempt to measure the impacts of fishing nets on the coral reefs for the first time in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. We employ an underwater "structure from motion" technique to capture images of the reef before and after we remove nets. We will process hundreds of photos to create three-dimensional models of the nets and reefs. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Rhonda Suka)

Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Ship Sette has safely returned to Pearl Harbor and offloaded the marine debris from the reef at Pearl and Hermes Atoll. Thanks to the ship's crew and help from other NOAA staff, the offload went smoothly. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Tomoko Acoba)

NOAA Ship Sette has safely returned to Pearl Harbor and offloaded the marine debris from the reef at Pearl and Hermes Atoll. Thanks to the ship's crew and help from other NOAA staff, the offload went smoothly. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Tomoko Acoba)

All plastics

Miles and miles away from nearest major cities, plastics and fishing nets have accumulated along the shorelines of Midway Atoll. Scientists Williams and Weible collect debris on Eastern Island. [Lots of bending.] (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Miles and miles away from nearest major cities, plastics and fishing nets have accumulated along the shorelines of Midway Atoll. Scientists Williams and Weible collect debris on Eastern Island. [Lots of bending.] (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Off the beach

Removing the collected debris from the shorelines is the next step, and it is a task of its own. Scientists Kelley and Pamatat bring the fishing nets onto the small boat to transport them to the Sand Island, the main island of Midway Atoll. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Removing the collected debris from the shorelines is the next step, and it is a task of its own. Scientists Kelly and Pamatat bring the fishing nets onto the small boat to transport them to the Sand Island, the main island of Midway Atoll. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam) 

Get ready

The team is about to bring the huge conglomorate net onto the small boat. Divers in the water tie the lines at the bottom of the nets to give everybody on the boat a tight grip. The small boats will be full! (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

The team is about to bring the huge conglomorate net onto the small boat. Divers in the water tie the lines at the bottom of the nets to give everybody on the boat a tight grip. The small boats will be full! (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Steven Gnam)

Overload

How much debris can a small boat take? Scientists tested their packing and organizing skills to pile a lot of debris on the small boat, and they have done a great job.

How much debris can a small boat take? Scientists tested their packing and organizing skills to pile a lot of debris on the small boat, and they have done a great job. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Kelly Williams)

Partners

NOAA Fisheries marine debris project in the Pacific Islands region is supported by NOAA (Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Pacific Islands Regional Office, Marine Debris Program, National Marine Sanctuaries, and the Damage Assessment Remediation and Restoration Program) in partnership with the University of Hawaii's Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, National Fish and Wildlife FoundationU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, the State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.