53 tons of trash pulled off of Papahānaumokuākea’s reefs and beaches

A recent expedition pulled 53 tons of fishing gear and plastic out of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project makes a 30-day journey to the archipelago twice a year.

They focus on pulling out ghost nets that present entanglement hazards. The trash is pulled and cut by hand to preserve the surrounding environment as much as possible.

Most of the trash was found towards the end of the archipelago around Manawai (Pearl & Hermes Atoll), Hōlanikū (Kure Atoll) and Kuaihelani (Midway Atoll).

Manawai collects the most debris with its 20 mile wide lagoon.

“Here’s this amazing part of Hawaiʻi, Papahānaumokuākea, and it’s a place that not enough people know about,” Kevin O’Brien, the founder of the project, said.

“It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s a national monument, it’s super important culturally in so many Native Hawaiian cultural narratives, it’s a wildlife refuge.”

The trash collected by PMDP is currently disposed at a Schnitzer Steel power plant.

“It’s the kind of place where you go and it feels like you’re stepping back in time where animals have never seen a human. So here’s this place, and marine debris is specifically one of these issues that we can actually do something about,” O’Brien told HPR.

O’Brien is currently talking with the state Department of Transportation to recycle the collected trash into asphalt. The partnership will begin next year.

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