NOAA 2006-R469
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NOAA News Releases 2006
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Sites Identified in Recent Helicopter Survey, Oahu Up First

NOAA has commenced the removal of an estimated 129 tons of marine debris from the main Hawaiian islands. This begins the second stage of a project aimed at reducing the presence of marine debris on Hawaiian shores. The removal effort, which started on Oahu, follows an extensive helicopter survey earlier this year which showed abandoned fishing gear and other debris along the shores and nearshore reefs of all the main islands.

"NOAA has made a commitment to the people of Hawaii to seriously address the issue of marine debris, both through identification and removal, as well as through education and public awareness of this critical issue impacting the health of the Hawaiian ecosystem," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "We have had a longstanding effort in the areas around the recently designated Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument, and are now looking to address the issue in the main islands as well."

Marine debris continues to present a hazard to Hawaiian marine life, habitat, and safe navigation. Between February and May 2006, the NOAA Marine Debris program completed helicopter surveys to assess the distribution, abundance, and impact of marine debris in the main Hawaiian islands. The islands of Oahu, Kauai, Hawaii, Maui, Lanai, and Molokai were successfully surveyed in 13 days over the course of 50 flight hours. A total of 711 sites comprising more than a quarter-million tons of marine debris were identified, with most found on beaches.

Oahu, Kauai, and Lanai lead the other islands in both individual debris sites and estimated debris weight. Windward-facing shorelines contained substantially more derelict fishing gear than leeward shores, indicating that northeasterly trade winds play a primary role in debris deposition. Also, even though Hawaii does not have a trawl fishery, most nets observed were trawl nets, which are carried to the islands from elsewhere in the Pacific by ocean currents.

Debris removed from beaches and reefs will be transported to Schnitzer Steel Hawaii Corporation for processing prior to being incinerated for energy production, a marine debris recycling effort launched earlier this year.

The main island clean-up is one of five Hawaii-based debris removal projects funded by the NOAA Marine Debris program. These projects are part of a nationwide effort that also includes addressing marine debris in the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf coast, and Florida as well as Hawaii.

The NOAA Marine Debris program works with other NOAA offices including NOAA Fisheries, the National Ocean Service, and Hawaii Sea Grant as well as other federal, state and local agencies and private sector partners to support national, state, local and international efforts to protect and conserve our nation’s natural resources and coastal waterways from the impacts of marine debris.

In 2007 NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. Starting with the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. The agency is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and more than 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

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Editor Note: Photos and maps of Hawaii marine debris available at: