Two Marine Debris Program staffers are participating in NOAA’s annual mission to remove derelict nets and other marine debris from sensitive coral reefs and shorelines in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. An estimated 52 tons of derelict fishing gear washes up in the Monument each year, threatening the pristine ecosystem. Follow their journey.
By: Dianna Parker
Mission Log 5
We left Maro Reef after pulling up a whopping 14 metric tons of derelict nets in six days and moved on to Pearl and Hermes Atoll, where we expect to be for another week. Today was our first day out in the small boats, and one boat disentangled two different green sea turtles from two different nets.
The divers are doing a combination of swimming and tow-boarding here; we can pull them behind the boat clinging to boards in some of the atoll’s flatter parts, which should give them some relief from swimming. The interesting thing about this place is that there’s a huge section the divers lovingly refer to as “The Maze,” which is made up of vein-like, reticulated strips of reef crisscrossing the middle of the atoll. From satellite, it looks like someone took spaghetti and threw it into the deepest part of the lagoon.
The veteran divers here tell me “The Maze” is where the nets will likely be. We’ll see, but in the meantime, here are three things you should know about Pearl and Hermes Atoll.
1. Size and shape: According to the Monument, “Pearl and Hermes Atoll is a true atoll that is primarily underwater and has numerous islets, seven of which are above sea level. While total land area is only 0.36 square km (80 acres), the reef area is huge, over 450 square miles (194,000 acres). The atoll is ever-changing, with islets emerging and subsiding.”
2. Diver’s favorite fact: Pearl and Hermes Atoll is a little bit of everything: islands, barrier reef, deep lagoons, reticulated reef maze, amazing marine wildlife, and shipwrecks that are nearly 200 years old.
3. Hawaiian name: Holoikauaua