NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

Another Successful Removal Mission in the NWHI Wraps Up


The 2016 Northwestern Hawaiian Islands marine debris removal mission came to a close last Friday, May 13, successfully hauling in 12 tons of debris from Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. A marine debris team of 10 NOAA scientists was part of the removal effort that spanned 32 days cleaning Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary, Lisianski Island, and the French Frigate Shoals.

The annual removal mission, which began in 1996, has removed a total of 935 tons of marine debris to date including the 12 tons of marine debris from this year’s mission. The NOAA Marine Debris Program has supported this yearly effort since the program’s inception in 2006. As the program celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, it also marks ten years of funding this removal effort in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. “This cross-agency effort to remove debris is a tremendous undertaking and it emphasizes the need to focus efforts on marine debris prevention to stop debris from showing up on these once pristine shorelines,” said Pacific Island Regional Coordinator Mark Manuel.

This year’s mission successfully removed a lot of interesting debris items, some of which are listed in the graphic below and also including:

  • 1468 beverage bottles
  • 4457 bottle caps
  • 1843 derelict fishing nets or net fragments
  • 485 toothbrushes and other personal care products
  • 570 shoes and flip-flop sandals

Take a closer look at this year’s mission from the beginninghalfway, and end points, and check out the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program’s interactive daily story map for a detailed look at this year’s effort.

An infographic portraying the amount of debris that has been removed friom the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The image shows volunteers in two boats loaded with derelict nets.


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.

5 thoughts on “Another Successful Removal Mission in the NWHI Wraps Up

  1. What becomes of the many tons of collected marine debris?
    How do you dispose of this material?
    Who pays for the transportation expenses to the disposal site?

    Joe Chudzik,
    Lorton, Virginia

    • Hi Joe,
      Thanks for your interest in marine debris! To answer your questions, the many tons of collected marine debris are handled in a few different ways. The derelict fishing nets, which make up a majority of the debris, are processed through the Hawai’i Nets-to-Energy Program (similar to the Fishing for Energy program that operates in the continental U.S.). The nets are brought back to Honolulu where they are incinerated to create energy to power homes in Hawai’i. All of these associated costs are provided in-kind by Schnitzer Steel and Covanta. Some of the plastic debris is kept for use in educational displays and outreach events to spread awareness about marine debris. The remainder of the debris is passed onto various partners for recycling. Any items that can’t be recycled (a very small percentage) are disposed of and go to the landfill. There are no direct costs for the disposal of the collected debris, as all services are provided in-kind by partners.

  2. Hi there, I am a graduate of a Marine Biology Bachelor of Science program in Florida. My main interest is to study marine debris and microplastics. I would be really interested to know how I can get involved with this effort next year?

    • Hi Sigrid,
      Thanks for your interest in marine debris and in getting involved! The NWHI removal missions are generally very small, as there are a lot of logistics associated with getting out there. The NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Program leads the effort and they would be the ones to contact. You can find more about them on their website. If you are interested in getting involved in cleanup opportunities, I suggest you subscribe to our e-newsletter, which lists upcoming cleanups throughout the country each month.

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