NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

Marine debris removal for the sake of the Hawaiian monk seal (by guest blogger Dera Look, NOAA PIRO)


On December 10th, Hawaiian Monk Seal Response Team O‘ahu (HMSRTO) volunteers notified NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Response of a large amount of one-inch line sprawled across the reef at Nimitz Jetty, Barbers Point on the Island of O‘ahu. The Barbers Point area is currently a regular haul-out spot for five Hawaiian monk seals, but as many as ten different individuals have been known to frequent that stretch of beach throughout the years. Given the high density of seals in this area, there was a concern this marine debris could entangle a seal. 

One of the piles of line with a thin rectangular metal plate attached to it.
Photo credit: Barbara Billand (HMSRTO)

HMSRTO volunteers and Officer Mantec (Barbers Point Base Police) worked tirelessly throughout the morning to drag the hundreds of feet of line out of the water and off the reef. NOAA personnel later arrived to help cut the line into smaller pieces so that it could be loaded onto a truck. The line was taken to Pier 38 for disposal and down-cycling through the Hawai‘i Nets to Energy Program.

HMSRTO volunteers and NOAA staff work to cut the large
pile of line into more manageable pieces.
Photo credit: Barbara Billand (HMSRTO)

(From left to right) HMSRTO volunteers Wayne Williamson, Barbara Billand,
Clay Gates, Robert Billand, and David Schofield (NOAA Fisheries).
Photo credit: Barbara Billand (HMSRTO)

Hawaiian monk seals are one of the most endangered animal species in the world. Only about 1,100 seals are left and their overall population is in decline at a rate of about 4.5% each year. Hawaiian monk seals have one of the highest documented entanglement rates of any pinniped species. Marine debris, including derelict fishing gear, is a chronic form of pollution affecting the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands where the majority of the seals reside. In the main Hawaiian islands where over 100 individual seals have been sighted, recreational fishing is the principal fishery interaction threat currently facing monk seals. Nonetheless, the removal of the marine debris allowed us to rest easy knowing this critically endangered species would be out of harm’s way.

Two of the “regulars” RS00 (left) and R012 (right) at White Plains, Barbers Point, HI.
Photo credit: Barbara Billand (HMSRTO)

For more information check out HMSRTO’s blog, Monk Seal Mania, at

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

2 thoughts on “Marine debris removal for the sake of the Hawaiian monk seal (by guest blogger Dera Look, NOAA PIRO)

  1. I am proud of my brother and his wife,Barbara.

  2. Kudos to Barbara and Robert Billand who are great ambassadors for the monk seal community and all of Hawaii. We spent two weeks at White Plains Beach and saw them every day, all day, protecting the monk seals in residence. They willingly shared their vast knowledge with all who were interested in learning more about the seals. They are truly committed to their passion for monk seals and other wildlife. Mahalo and aloha from Betsy and Wayne, WA

    (PS I wanted to post this on the but couldn’t quite figure out how to do it. Could someone do that for me?)

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