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Marine Debris Program Celebrates Completion of 30-Day Removal Mission in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

OCTOBER 11, 2021 ─ ‘A‘ohe hana nui ke alu ‘ia: No task is too big when done together by all. On September 22, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) celebrated the completion of a 30-day mission to remove marine debris from the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The mission removed nearly 124,000 pounds of debris and entanglement hazards from the monument’s waters and shorelines. 

Dead seal tangled in nets.
A Hawaiian monk seal is resting in a large derelict fishing net at Southeast Island, Manawai (Pearl and Hermes). This seal was lucky to escape entanglement, but not all seals are. Image credit: NOAA Fisheries/Richard Chen (Permit #22677).

This critical mission followed extensive safety and COVID protocols, including a ten-day quarantine of the mission team in advance of launch.

Papahānaumokuākea is a sacred Native Hawaiian landscape and encompasses one of the largest fully protected marine protected areas on the planet, spanning 582,578 square miles. Removing marine debris in the monument honors and perpetuates the spiritual and cultural relationships with Papahānaumokuākea by affirming respect and reciprocity and is an act of mālama, or care taking and preserving, and enhances the mana, or divine power, of Papahānaumokuākea.

The team of 16 divers from NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project removed 118,400 pounds of derelict fishing gear, including 295 large nets, from reefs and shorelines. This year, the marine debris team also removed nearly 5,300 pounds of plastics and other debris, including 3,670 pounds from Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll) alone. In addition, the team successfully disentangled a 5-year-old adult female Hawaiian monk seal, identified as “VH26,” who had given birth to a pup earlier in the summer.

The mission was led by the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program and NOAA Damage Assessment Remediation and Restoration Program. Additional support for this project comes from Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, State of Hawai‘i, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and other NOAA programs. Through the practice of mālama and stewardship it is our hope to perpetuate the mana of Papahānaumokuākea and keep this special landscape free of debris.

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Last updated Tuesday, November 8, 2022 1:42pm PST