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Diving into Ka Lae: A Small Nonprofit Receives International Cleanup Help on Hawaiʻi Island

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By: Megan Lamson, Guest Blogger and Coordinator of the Hawaiʻi Island Marine Debris Removal Project for the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund

At the bottom of South Point Road in Kamaʻoa (Kaʻū district, SE Hawaiʻi) lies a well-known rocky shoreline named Ka Lae, translated from Hawaiian to mean point, promontory, or wisdom. The cliffs at Ka Lae (a.k.a. “South Point”) are internationally celebrated as the southernmost tip of the United States, domestically recognized as a National Historic Landmark, and are locally renowned for fishing and cliff jumping. Visitors and island residents alike flock to this rugged coastline for the opportunity to take a photo or to leap into the deep blue below. Unfortunately, this region is also a hub for the accumulation of marine debris.

In June, with support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund (HWF, hosted its first-ever underwater cleanup event at this locale. With help from divers with the Sea Beautification Society (SBS) from Japan and a volunteer interpreter from Canada, this cleanup turned out to be a complete success. A dozen scuba divers were joined by 3 free-divers and 8 shoreline support volunteers. In total, the 23 participants were able to remove 157 pounds (71 kg) of marine debris, most of which was monofilament fishing line that was encrusted with invasive algae. This collaboration was first conceived when HWF linked up with SBS at an international Japan tsunami debris symposium hosted by JEAN (Japan Environmental Action Network) in Vancouver in October 2014. It is yet another reminder of how connected we all are, and how we can work together to take care of our planet.

HWF has been working to conserve native wildlife in Hawaiʻi since 1996 and removing marine debris from the shores of Hawaiʻi Island since 2003. During this time, HWF has hosted nearly 100 cleanup events and collectively removed over 161 metric tons (or 356,000 lbs.) of debris from Hawaiʻi Island with the help of thousands of community and visiting volunteers. This debris typically comes from faraway places on the Pacific Rim, such as the West coast of the U.S. and several countries in Asia; however, regardless of where it originates, it continues to be a threat to marine wildlife until it is removed from the marine and coastal environment. Marine debris is a people problem and HWF is committed to working with people on the island and around the globe to resolve this issue.

To get involved, donate, or find out more, please contact HWF at or call their marine debris reporting hotline at (808) 769-7629.

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.

One thought on “Diving into Ka Lae: A Small Nonprofit Receives International Cleanup Help on Hawaiʻi Island

  1. Great for the program but lucky volunteers too.

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