Overview of the marine debris pile collected from Midway Atoll. Photo courtesy NOAA.
Located about 750 miles further northwest of Kauai, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. It is home to more than 7,000 marine species, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian isles.
It's remote and the waters are pristine, except for the sheer amount of derelict fishing nets and plastic litter that land upon the monument's tiny isles, atolls and coral reefs.
From mid-April to May, a team of 10 NOAA scientists conducted shoreline marine debris surveys at Midway, Kure, Pearl and Hermes atolls, Lisianski Island and French Frigate Shoals. A total of 24,123 pounds — or about 12 tons — were removed from those shorelines.
Derelict fishing net and plastic debris at Midway Atoll, Eastern Island. Courtesy NOAA.
Among the items were 1,843 derelict fishing nets or net fragments, 1,468 plastic beverage bottles, 4,457 bottle caps, 570 shoes and slippers (flip-flops), 535 cigarette lighters, 485 toothbrushes and other personal care products and 8,452 hard plastic fragments.
Plastic cigarette lighters picked up from Midway Atoll. Courtesy NOAA.
The team brought the marine debris back for a sorting event for schoolchildren at the NOAA Inouye Regional Center on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. Students in third to sixth grade helped sort plastic bottles, bottle caps, toothbrushes and other non-hazardous debris. The NOAA Marine Debris team and its partners hope to educate Hawaii's youth on the negative impacts of consuming single-use plastics and to become the leading example for future generations.
Plastics brought back from Papahanaumokuakea will be recycled for use in art displays and manufactured goods, while the fishing nets will be sent to Hawaii's Nets to Energy Program to be repurposed as fuel.
NOAA has been removing marine debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian islands since 1996. Over the past 20 years, agency staff and partners have removed a total of 848 metric tons (or 1.9 million pounds) of derelict fishing gear and plastics from Paphanaumokuakea.
Marine debris team at work, Midway Atoll, Sand Island. Courtesy NOAA.
Courtesy NASA, earthobservatory.nasa.gov. Captured by the MODIS on NASA's Terra satellite Jan. 2014.
Earth Day falls on April 22, 2016. Nowadays, people like to celebrate it during the entire month. But of course, Earth Day is every day.
The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, with approximately 20 million people taking place across the U.S. through demonstrations in the streets or parks for environmental causes. The celebration has since gone global. If you're interested in learning more about Earth Day history, CNN Libraryoffers some fast facts.
Here are some ways to celebrate in the 808 (Hawaii).
10 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday, April 22: University of Hawaii at Manoa's Earth Day Festival offers an inspiring day of music, art, yoga and celebration of earth stewardship at the Campus Center and Legacy Path. Connect through Facebook.
9-11 a.m., Friday, April 22: Earth Day at Turtle Bay Resort.Celebrate Earth Day at Turtle Bay with a guided hike to Kahuku Point by the North Shore Community Land Trust followed by a beach cleanup, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Check in at 8:45 a.m. at the Guidepost experiential center, Turtle Bay Resort. Cleanup followed by a complimentary light lunch. From 7 to 8 p.m. in the evening, free diver Ocean Ramsey conducts a Talk Story on shark conservation at Surfer, The Bar. ($5 donation requested).
8:45-11 a.m., Saturday, April 23: 8th Annual Ka Iwi Clean-Up: Clean the Ka Iwi Shoreline with Rep. Gene Ward, former Peace Corps Volunteers, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Kaiser High School, Friends of Ka Iwi and 808 Cleanups. Meet at Alan Davis Wall. Picinic lunch to follow at Maunalua Bay. Bags, gloves and water provided.
9 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday, April 23: Mauka to Makai Environmental Expo, Waikiki Aquarium. Interactive booths, including the Journey Home puppet show, a story about Apoha the o‘opu and friends, free native Hawaiian plants (first come, first serve) and complimentary water stations for guests who bring refillable bottles. More info at this link.
8 a.m.-11 a.m. Saturday, April 23: Sea Life Park beach cleanup takes place across from the park on the other side of Kalanianaole Highway. Public is invited to help clean the shoreline. First 50 participants will be invited to visit Sea Life Parkfree of charge following the event, while others will be offered a special rate of $9.50 for the day. Please bring gloves and a bucket instead of plastic bags to store trash. Free parking at Sea Life Park lot. Show bucket to the attendant.
9 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, April 30: Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and partners bring you the Earth Day Festival and Ultimate Sand Sifter Competition. Check in time is 9 a.m. at Waimanalo Beach Park. Groups will fan out and clean windward shorelines from Makapu‘u to Bellows. Finalists from the sand sifter competition will also be on hand to showcase their design ideas for getting micro-plastics off the beach. Visit sustainablecoastlineshawaii.org.
April 18-22: Earth Week at Hawai‘i Pacific University.
5:30-7:30 p.m., Monday, April 18: David M. Berube delivers the presidential lecture series on global leadership and sustainability, entitled "Emerging Technologies, Energy and Public Engagement."
11 a.m.-1 p.m., Wednesday, April 20: Earth Week Fair at HPU's Center Atrium, with various local organizations. Visit hpu.edu/sustainability.
12-1 p.m., Friday, April 22: HPU Libraries "Seed Project." Share a love for seeds. "Take, leave, whatevas..." Win a plant and make a gecko bookmark. Atherton Library, Hawaii Loa Campus.
5:30-6:30 p.m., Friday, April 22: Food Waste Prevention Presentation followed by sustainability and healthy living education presented by Pono Home. Hawaii Loa Campus Dining Commons.
Last year, Dr. Beach, or Stephen P. Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University, listed Waimanalo Beach Park on Oahu as No. 1 on his list of Top 10 Beachesin America.
He praised Waimanalo as a great beach for its soft, white sands, which extend for more than five miles. He mentioned the turquoise waters and shade of ironwood trees.
Of course, he made no mention of the stinging Portuguese man-o-war that land on the shoreline on windy days, nor the huge amount of marine debris that this part of the island seems to comb in from the reef in great quantities.
Nevertheless, Waimanalo Beach Park is slated for some "malama" as Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii organizes a beach cleanup and Earth Day Festival from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 30.
The new Education Station , a mobile classroom made from a recycled shipping container, will be on hand, along with live entertainment, games and more.
This sand sifter by Kailua Beach Adventures won last year's competition.
Sustainable Coastlines also brings back the Ultimate Sand Sifter Competition, which encourages community members to create an apparatus that removes microplastic marine debris from the sand. Finalists from each age division will be invited to build and demonstrate their sifter at the final challenge on April 30. Winners get a cash prize of $1,000.
"The goal of the sand sifter competition is to foster out-of-the-box thinking for removing the bite-size plastics that harm fish and seabirds," said SCH executive director Kahi Pacarro. "We expect to see some of the most innovative designs compete on Earth day, and look forward to the positive impact that this competition will have on the coastlines and community."
Drone footage recently captured a mother humpback whale "tail-sailing," or basically doing a headstand in the ocean with its tail out of the water, catching the wind like a sail. The "tail-sailing" is common among southern right whales, but has rarely been documented among humpback whales.
The footage was captured during a two-week study by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries' Collaborative Center for Unmanned Technology, which also used drones to conduct health assessments of the whales from a closer distance.
Volunteers continue to count sightings of the humpback whales from the shores of Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island on the last day of the month in January, February and March. As featured in today's Green Leaf column, some of these volunteers, like June Kawamata, are dedicated citizen scientists. Kawamata, a retired oordinator from Kailua High School's cafeteria, served as an Ocean Count site leader at Lanai Lookout for 20 years. She still heads out when she can, out of a love for the whales.
Boaters are also reminded to be vigilant during humpback whale season, which generally runs from November through May in Hawaii. Mariners are asked to report any collisions with whales, or injured or entangled whales to NOAA's 24-hour hotline at 1-888-256-9840.
The Malama Learning Center's annual Calabash & Cooks fundraiser takes place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 12 at Kapolei High School.
Professional chefs from Roy's Ko Olina, Firehouse, La‘ela‘e and Pono Plates will be serving up some dishes, along with student chefs from six different public high schools — Campbell, Kapolei, Moanalua, Radford, Waianae and Waipahu.
It's the third annual event for the Malama Learning Center, a non-profit which works to educate the public about sustainable, healthy living. Proceeds benefit the center and its activities, which include site restoration projects at Piliokahe Beach Park, Kalaeloa and Nanakuli wetlands. The center also encourages school and community gardens, programs for youth and hands-on workshops on worm composting.
"This year Calabash & Cooks is really going back to its roots and focusing on the main ingredient of our organization – our children," said Pauline Sato, executive director of Malama Learning Center. "By putting the students front and center we are empowering them to create something special that brings together all the knowledge they've learned throughout the year in dishes that celebrate local, sustainable products."
Featured dishes this year will include Campbell High School's signature appetizer of kalua pork won tons with island style salsa and Kapolei High's award-winning pineapple-banana-lilikoi cobbler with ice cream.
Every dish will have at least four to six locally grown or sourced ingredients. A silent auction, live entertainment and country store will also take place.
Tickets start at $40 ($20 for keiki 10 and under; $25 for students and $75 for VIP). Purchase tickets online at malamalearningcenter.org.
Academy Award-winning film director Louie Psihoyos exposes the underground world of the endangered species trade in his new film, "Racing Extinction," which was screened for a Honolulu audience on Friday evening.
The director of "The Cove," which exposed the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan, and his team from the Oceanic Preservation Society focus this time on the underground market of shark finning in China and covert offering of whale meat at The Hump, a now closed-down sushi restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif.
Vulcan Productions and the Hawaii Wildlife Coalition hosted the free screening on Friday evening at Blaisdell Concert Hall in celebration of World Wildlife Day.
"Each year about one in a million species should expire naturally," said Stuart Pimm, conservation ecologist from Duke University in the film. "In the next few decades, we'll be driving species to extinction a thousand times faster than they should be."
In 100 years or so, we could lose up to 50 percent of all species on earth, according to the film. No surprise, humans are the driving force of this mass extinction.
The film focuses heavily on the shark finning and exotic animal trade in China. It also looks at the killing of manta rays in Lamakera, a remote fishing village in Indonesia, for their gills, which are being touted as a Traditional Chinese Medicine cure.
While "Racing Extinction" covers a broad swathe, addressing a range of issues from ocean acidification to carbon emissions and their impact on the earth, it does not delve into the world of elephant and rhino poaching in Africa or other parts of the world.
It offers beautiful, underwater footage of blue whales, dolphins, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks and manta rays.
After the screening, actress Kristin Bauer van Straten moderated a panel including race car driver Leilani Munter (whose mother is from Kona and who is in the film), Jeffrey Flocken, North America regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Elly Pepper, policy advocate of the Land & Wildlife Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Actress Kristin Bauer van Straten moderates the panel discussion following the film's screening at Blaisdell Concert Hall with race car driver and environmental activist Leilani Munter, Jeffrey Flocken of IFAW and Elly Pepper of NRDC. An endangered Hawaiian monk seal is on the screen behind them. Seals are not featured in the film.
Hawaii is the third largest market for ivory in the U.S., behind New York and California, according to a brochure from the Conservation Council for Hawai‘i. The latter two states now have laws in place.
The council urged support for HB2502 and SB2647, which would prohibit the trafficking of any part of protected animal species in Hawaii, including any species of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, great ape, Hawaiian monk seal, shark, ray, sea turtle, walrus, narwhal, whale, lion, pangolin, cheetah and more. For the full list, see the bill.
Despite the gruesome discoveries, the film concludes with a message of hope that we can save animals from going extinct.
"If we all lose hope there is no hope," said Jane Goodall, who is seen in the film, releasing a chimpanzee back into the wild. "Without hope, people fall into apathy. There's still a lot left worth fighting for."
"Racing Extinction" was broadcast on The Discovery Channel on Dec. 2, but is also available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.
The ‘ohi‘a lehua is in trouble due to a fungal infestation called "Rapid Ohia Death." UH Manoa's Lyon Arboretum launched a GoFundMe campaign to collect and bank ‘ohi‘a seeds to preserve them for future forest restoration. Photo courtesy UH.
In an effort to save the ‘ohi‘a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha), the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa's Lyon Arboretum launched a GoFundMe campaign last month.
The goal is to raise $35,000 to help scientists collect and bank ‘ohi‘a seeds for the arboretum's Seed Conservation Laboratory. As of this week, roughly three-fourths of the goal has been reached.
The native ‘ohi‘a is under threat by a fungal infestation, called Rapid ‘Ohi‘a Death, that has decimated more than 34,000 acres of the ‘ohi‘a forest on the Big Island. Across the state, the ‘ohi‘a trees occupy about 865,000 acres.
Once an individual tree is infected, it dies within a matter of weeks. Its leaves turn brown and fall off, leaving a skeleton behind. Hundreds of thousands of trees have been infected by the blight, and there is no known treatment for it.
Once infected, the ‘ohi‘a lehua die within weeks. Leaves turn brown and fall off, leaving a skeleton behind. Courtesy UH.
Considered by many to be the most important tree in Hawaii, the ‘ohi‘a plays a central role in Hawaiian culture and mythology as well as in the state's forest ecology. Native birds and tree snails live and feed on them. Their canopy protects smaller trees and native shrubs, creating the watershed that recharges our water supply.
"There is an old Hawaiian proverbial saying, he ali‘i ka ‘aina, he haua ke kanaka, the land is chief and the people are its servants," said UH Hilo professor Kalena Silva. "And so we remember, that the ‘ohi‘a doesn't need us. We need it."
The ‘ohi‘a lehua are among the first plants to grow after a new lava flow. Courtesy UH.
The Seed Conservation Laboratoryhas been storing native Hawaiian seeds for more than 20 years and currently banks more than 12 million seeds from over 500 native species. Marian Chau, lab manager, said the funds will help staff collect ‘ohi‘a seeds from at-risk areas of the Big Island as well as ‘ohi‘a seeds endemic to Oahu for long-term storage in the seed bank.
The rewards are as simple as a hug from the staff for a donation of $10 to a beautiful print of "A Dozen Lehua" by Joey Latsha for $100 or a private, docent-led tour of Lyon Arboretum and an OhiaLove T-Shirt for $1,000.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser file photo by Krystle Marcellus.
Several non-profit environmental and solar advocacy groups united their voices this week in protest of the Hawaiian Electric Industries' maneuvers to oppose renewable energy. Although HECO publicly claims to be working toward the state's goal of using 100 percent renewables by 2045, its actions seem to support just the opposite.
It's like having a two-faced utility. HECO's corporate website will tell you it's committed to protecting the environment, with a nice photo of a Hawaiian sea turtle.
And yet, the Clean Energy Coalition points out how HECO is moving Hawaii in the wrong direction, considering:
>> HECO just proposed the building of a 383-megawatt power plant on Oahu to burn liquefied natural gas, or diesel oil, if the NextEra deal is approved.
>> HECO is asking to expand the state's largest coal plant to 189 megawatts, which is equivalent to the power generated by allowing about 6,000 homes to install rooftop solar.
>> Yet HECO just killed a deal for three large solar farms which would have brought more than 100 megawatts of clean and relatively inexpensive energy on to the grid, reducing electricity rates for Oahu residents.
>> HECO fought to slash compensation to residents with rooftop solar and limit the amount of solar that can be installed.
On Monday, Earthjustice, The Sierra Club, Blue Planet Foundation, Hawaii PV Coalition, Alliance for Solar Choice and Hawaii Solar Energy Association raised the above concerns with Hawaii's largest electrical utilities.
"Hawaii claims to support clean energy," said Marti Townsend, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii. "So why isn't HECO moving forward with real clean energy projects? How can a state-sponsored public utility flout the will of the people and the Legislature?"
Robert Harris, spokesman for the Alliance for Solar Choice, said: "It's time to change the system. We need to look at options, such as putting another entity in charge of running the grid who doesn't produce or sell power. HECO won't change its stripes if it's not in its financial interest to do so."
Rick Reed, president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, said 96 percent of people in Hawaii believe we should have more solar power, not less.
"Anything that's not meaningfully moving in that direction isn't respecting what the people want: cheaper and cleaner power," he said.
Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, said: "It's time to say no to more fossil fuels. It's simply not acceptable for our utility to be proposing new fossil fuels at the same time it's slow down clean, local power."
The Public Utilities Commission resumes a third round of testimony on NextEra Energy Inc.'s proposed $4.3 billion purchase of the state's largest electric utility next week.
Juvenile, female monk seal at Midway Atoll. Photo courtesy NOAA/Stacie Robinson.
In an effort to further protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals, NOAA Fisheries announced the beginning of routine vaccinations of the pinnipeds on Oahu.
The proactive measure, announced Feb. 19, is part of a concerted effort to protect the monk seals in advance against morbillivirus, a disease which could possibly be passed on to them via unvaccinated dogs with distemper or other marine mammals, including whales, dolphins and other wayward seal species. There is no disease outbreak affecting Hawaiian monk seals at this time.
Morbillivirus, once introduced into seals, can spread rapidly through respiratory secretions. Outbreaks of morbillivirus have caused the deaths of thousands of dolphins and seals in other parts of the world. Hawaiian monk seals are at risk due to a lack of immunity to morbillivirus and poor genetic diversity.
Initial efforts will focus on Oahu, and continue until October.
The outlook for Hawaiian monk seals, is improving, slowly but surely, according to the latest State of the Seal address in mid-February, with the population now at 1,272 compared to about 1,100. More seal pups were born across the archipelago in the last year compared to previous years. Besides vaccinations, officials are intervening with disentanglement and de-hooking efforts.
On June 1, 2006 Hawaiian monk seal R5AY gave birth in a North Shore location. PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA., JUNE 9, 2006.
The Hawaiian monk seal is one of NOAA's eight selected "Species in the Spotlight" with its own five-year action plan. The other species include the Atlantic Salmon in the Gulf of Maine; central California coast coho; Beluga Whale of Cook inlet; Pacific Leatherback sea turtle; winter-run Chinook of Sacramento River; southern resident Killer Whale and white abalone.
Waste diversion pop-up tent set up by Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. Courtesy SCH.
The tally is in.
Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii released a final analysis of the amount of waste it was able to divert during the 2016 Volcom Pipe Pro at Pipeline from Jan. 28 to Feb. 7. Total: 1,365 pounds.
The grassroots non-profit group set up more than 10 waste diversion systems (pop-up recycling tents) along the coastline and collected the 1,365 pounds over the three-day contest period. Of that total, 1,004 pounds were sent to be recycled or composted, while 361 pounds went to H-POWER. Compostable materials were sent to Waihuena Farm on the North Shore to be transformed into soil.
"Although we primarily focus on plastic pollution issues through coastal cleanups," said Kahi Pacarro, director of SCH, "the partnerships to reduce event impacts on communities means reaching a larger audience to share the issues of over consumption and our throw away culture. We hope our work influences more people to inspect their own waste stream and see where they can reduce the amount of trash they create. Even more, get fired up to join us at an upcoming cleanup!"
Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii also set up an Education Station, made from a modified 20-foot shipping container to help educate people about plastic pollution and waste. The station was open to the public every night that the competition ran.
Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's Education Station, made from a modified 20-foot shipping container, serves as a mobile classroom and movie screen to educate others about plastic pollution and marine debris. Courtesy SCH.
With thousands of spectators and participants converging on Oahu's North Shore, there's bound to be a lot of throwaway waste, unless the organizers take initiative. The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, designated a Deep Blue Surfing Event for the third year, also made an effort to divert waste from the landfill in partnership with SCH.
Here's the larger picture on waste diversion for all of the Vans Triple Crown of Hawaii, which took place on Oahu's North Shore from Nov. 12 to Dec. 20, with three major surf contests.
>> Triple Crown offered Flowater drinking stations to help divert 36,000 plastic water bottles.
>> Food waste went to Waihuena Farm, an organic farm on the North Shore that turned it into compost. Ke Nui Kitchen, which caters the contest, in turn purchased its produce from the farm, closing the loop.
>> Contest event banners were upcycled into bags and totes by Honolulu manufacturer Mafia Bags.
>> Organizers used 70 percent biodiesel sourced from Hawaii-based Pacific Biodiesel for its transportation needs.
>> Triple Crown donated $41,000 to local schools, youth education and environmental protection of the North Shore, as well as $40,000 for renovations of the public restrooms at Haleiwa Beach Park.
>> Purchased 944 tons of CO2 offsets from the Valdivian Coastal Conservation Reserve in coastal Chile to offset the carbon footprint of travel, hotel accommodations and energy use to power the events.
Mick Fanning of Australia wins at Sunset. Courtesy World Surf League.