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86,100 Pounds of Marine Debris Removed from the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

August 14, 2023 – On August 2, 2023, the team from the Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project, a Hawaiʻi-based nonprofit organization, returned to Honolulu, with 86,100 pounds of marine debris removed from shallow coral reefs and shorelines of the islands and atolls within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Of the debris removed, 69,330 pounds were derelict fishing nets and 16,770 pounds were plastics and other debris.

A small team removing ghost nets from the shoreline of Kamole (Laysan island) (Credit: Andrew Sullivan-Haskins, Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project).
Removing ghost nets from the shoreline of Kamole (Laysan island) (Credit: Andrew Sullivan-Haskins, Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project).

The return of the 16-person team aboard the 185-ft ship M/V Imua, marks the completion of their first 30-day large-scale cleanup mission to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in 2023. A second mission is scheduled for August 26 to September 22, 2023. Marine Debris Program staff in Hawai‘i were able to visit with the crew on August 3 to discuss the mission and watch the offloading of debris.

This work is supported by the Marine Debris Program through a five-year award to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) totaling $5,800,000 in funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to expand marine debris removal efforts in the monument. Matched by a private donor for a total investment of $12,000,000, this new investment is allowing the subgrantee (Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project) to scale up this removal work, build capacity for a sustainable, multi-year program, and incorporate lessons and efficiencies learned from more than 20 years of experience and data. The grant will enable the removal of over 500 metric tons of debris in coming years. 

Marine debris removal is of critical importance to both the natural and cultural components of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Papahānaumokuākea is a sacred Native Hawaiian landscape. The monument was also designated as a mixed natural and cultural World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and is one of the largest fully protected marine conservation areas on the planet, spanning 582,578 square miles. NOAA has conducted marine debris removal missions in the monument with a large range of partners since 1996, and the Marine Debris Program has supported these efforts since it was established in 2006. 

This project with NFWF is carried out in partnership with the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other private and community stakeholders.

Last updated Friday, August 18, 2023 9:09am PDT