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Trash to Treasure: Removing Marine Debris from Hawaii’s Coral Reefs
Marine debris has been in the news lately, as trash and other debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan has started washing up on our shores. In Hawai’i, NOAA has been removing debris from coral reefs in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Since 1996, we’ve removed more than 700 metric tons of debris: that’s the same weight as 24 humpback whales!
Marine debris—material that is disposed of or discarded in the marine environment—is a persistent problem worldwide. It can range from a plastic bottle thrown on the beach to abandoned fishing gear left trapped under the sea. Sometimes, marine debris can come from a ship that has been deserted by the owner or has run aground.
In 2005, the M/V Casitas ran aground on a coral reef at Pearl and Hermes Atoll in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge. We worked with other agencies to remove the ship, and since then have been addressing the damage to the reef. As part of that effort, we’ve been removing fishing gear and other marine debris—from the shoreline, in the water, and even underwater with help from divers.
Just this past month, we removed 50 more tons of debris—so much that the ship carting it away couldn’t hold anymore. The nets we removed will be used as fuel for electricity generation. Hawaii's Nets-to Energy program burns the broken-down nets, and the steam produced from the fires runs a turbine to create energy..
Posted August 06, 2012