Follow Along as NOAA Clears the Waters of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Two people pull a fishing net out of the water into a small boat.
Two members of the NOAA dive team remove derelict fishing gear from a reef at Midway Atoll during the 2013 marine debris removal cruise. (NOAA)
A man pulls a net out of the ocean into a small boat.
Chief scientist Mark Manuel hauls derelict nets over the side of a small boat at Maro Reef during the 2014 expedition. (NOAA)

OCTOBER 8, 2014 -- Turquoise waters, vibrant coral reefs, white sand beaches—this is often what we think of when we think about far-off islands in the Pacific Ocean.

But even the furthest reaches of wilderness, such as the tropical reefs, islands, and atolls of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which are hundreds of miles from the main Hawaiian archipelago, can be polluted by human influence.

In these shallow waters, roughly 52 tons of plastic fishing nets wash up on coral reefs and shorelines each year.

For nearly two decades, NOAA has been leading an annual mission to clean up these old nets that can smother corals and entangle marine life, including endangered Hawaiian monk seals.

This year, the NOAA Marine Debris Program has two staff—Dianna Parker and Kyle Koyanagi—joining the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center scientists and divers on board the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette to document this effort.

You can follow their journey to remove nets from five areas in the marine monument:

You can keep track of all things related to this expedition on the NOAA Marine Debris Program website.