Marine debris is a global problem, affecting everything from the environment to the economy; from fishing and navigation to human health and safety; from the tiniest coral polyps to giant blue whales.
On January 12, NOAA and partners in Hawaii announced a comprehensive, long-term plan to assess and remove plastics, derelict fishing gear, and other sources of marine debris from coastal waters and coral reefs along the island chain.
Marine debris is a global problem, and a familiar one for Hawaii. The location of the Hawaiian Islands in the North Pacific Ocean makes them prone to accumulating floating debris. Each year, thousands of pounds of marine debris from domestic and foreign sources wash ashore and snag on reefs across the island chain. In Hawaii as well as in other parts of the world, marine debris continues to present a hazard to marine ecosystems, safe navigation, and wildlife such as the endangered Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi).
Marine debris comes in many forms, from a cigarette butt to a 4,000-pound derelict fishing net. Because of their location in the current gyres of the North Pacific Ocean, the Hawaiian Islands are prone to accumulating floating debris.
The Hawaii Marine Debris Action Plan is the product of two years of efforts by numerous governmental, non-governmental, academic, industry, and private business partners from across the state, working alongside NOAA’s Marine Debris Program.
The plan is a comprehensive and cooperative framework built upon significant ongoing and past marine debris community efforts. Specifically, the plan is aimed at reducing the current backlog of marine debris; the number of abandoned and derelict vessels; land-based debris in waterways; and fishing gear and solid waste disposal at sea. Strategies such as debris removal efforts, emergency response, prevention, and outreach campaigns, many of which are already underway, are central to the plan.
Since 2005, the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) has served as a centralized program within NOAA coordinating, strengthening, and enhancing marine debris activities within the agency and among partners and the public. The MDP has undertaken national and international efforts focused on researching, reducing, and preventing debris in the marine environment. The MDP continues to support and work closely with various partners across the U.S. to fulfill this mission.
The Hawaii Marine Debris Action Plan was supported and coordinated by NOAA with assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.