Watch as NOAA divers rescue a green sea turtle entangled in marine debris:
By: Dianna Parker
Marine debris impacts hundreds of species around the globe, including endangered species such as the Hawaiian monk seal. Derelict and abandoned fishing gear is a major culprit behind entanglements, and our colleagues in the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries reminded us all yesterday that even though some of these animals live in marine sanctuary safe havens, they are still not free from marine debris:
“Although the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are one of the most remote places in the United States, the marine ecosystem there is still under pressure from human impacts. Papahānuamokuākea Marine National Monument provides one of the last remaining refuges for monk seals, whose population has shrunk to only 1,100 animals.”
With Endangered Species Day approaching this Friday, we’ll take a look at some other endangered or threatened species throughout the week – including turtles and whales – and how they’re impacted by marine debris. But today, let’s celebrate the Hawaiian monk seal (and the NOAA folks who removed the 11.5-ton derelict net on which this seal is taking its nap).
By: Grace Chon
As the new Marine Debris Pacific Islands Regional Assistant Coordinator, I bring the world of marine debris into classrooms to create a new awareness of how our lifestyles impact the ocean. This month, my journey started with first through fifth graders at the American Renaissance Academy and first graders at Trinity Christian School on Oahu, Hawai‘i.
The first question I asked each class was “What comes to mind when you think of the ocean?” and many students responded saying fish, honu (turtles), sharks, surfing, and fun! There is no doubt children in Hawai‘i like the ocean. I then asked,“How have humans impacted or affected the ocean?” and these children knew trash and nets were in the ocean and harming our wildlife. The missing link for these students is usually realizing the source of the trash – us.
A mauka to makai (mountains to sea) connection is a common theme in Hawai‘i when teaching about our environment, and after hearing the presentation, students were able to see how their trash can end up in the ocean. They learned their everyday choices make a difference.
After the presentation, the students did several hands-on activities to help them better understand the problems marine debris creates. They pretended to be seals entangled in fishing nets and had to find a way to get free; used sieves to sift out microplastics from sand; explored the collection of marine debris we find on removal missions in Hawai‘i; and made marine debris magnets to remind them of how the daily choices they make impact our ocean.
Educating our next generation of ocean stewards is part of Hawaii’s Marine Debris Action Plan, and it’s an important piece to solving one of the biggest threats our oceans are facing today.
By: Dianna Parker
A large weathered sign that was once part of a Japanese village is going home today, thanks to collaboration between the State of Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, and Japanese officials. Hawaiian Airlines will fly the sign from Honolulu to Sendai Airport, where a delegation from Tanohata village will greet it.
The sign, which was ripped from Tanohata in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, washed up on Kahuku Beach in Oahu, Hawaii last September. After learning that the sign’s broken lettering says “Shimanokoshi village housing,” NOAA and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources were able to work with the Japanese consulate in Hawaii to determine its origin.
When they learned the sign had been found, representatives from Tanohata requested that the irreplaceable memento be returned. DLNR approached Hawaiian Airlines for assistance, and they volunteered to ship the sign back on a routine flight at no cost.
“This effort is a great example of collaboration between government agencies and industry, working together toward the spirit of Aloha and goodwill,” said Nancy Wallace, director of the Marine Debris Program. “We hope to continue strengthening these partnerships to assist the Japanese people as they recover.”
According to Japan Counsel General Toyoei Shigeeda, based in Honolulu, the village will use it as an exhibit “for future generations to learn about and understand the tsunami disaster of March 11, 2011.” He said, “We’re all excited that now, more than three years after the tsunami, this sign can be returned as a reminder and symbol of what was lost.”
NOAA has received more than 2,000 reports of potential tsunami debris to its email@example.com email address, but only about 45 have been definitively traced back to the tsunami. Twenty of those items were found in Hawaii.
By: Andrea Kealoha
Innovative solutions are borne through inspiration, teamwork, and an attitude that combines friendly competition with mutual gain. These core values were at play last fall when 15 fun-loving and highly motivated fourth and fifth graders from Kea’au Elementary School on the Big Island won a 3rd place prize for their marine debris solution in a FIRST®LEGO® League (FLL) competition.
The students, part of the elementary school’s LunaTechs robotics team, participated in the 2013 NATURE’S FURY Challenge, where over 200,000 children from over 70 countries were challenged to develop an innovative solution that helps communities prepare, stay safe, or rebuild after a natural disaster.
The team chose to focus on marine debris generated from tsunamis, a natural disaster that Hawaii has experienced in the past. As part of their initial research, the LunaTechs visited the Pacific Tsunami Center in Hilo and the Department of Civil Defense. They also participated in beach cleanups, collecting debris from Waiolena and Waiʻuli Beach Parks. Through these events, the LunaTechs became particularly interested in the threats associated with marine debris carrying invasive species.
The LunaTechs’ goal was to find a creative way to track Japan tsunami marine debris to monitor possible invasive species that could harm the natural habitat in Hawaii.
The first step in their project was to gain an understanding of current detection efforts (e.g. satellite tracking, modeling maps, and at-sea detection) and limitations associated with them (e.g. dispersal of debris makes tracking by satellite harder, debris may be in remote places).
The LunaTechs brainstormed and developed an idea to build an intricate framework of interactive robots, called LunaBots, which communicate with each other from a satellite in space, to flying robots in the atmosphere, to floating robots in the surface ocean, and finally, to aquatic robots submerged within the depths of the ocean. Consistent, collaborative communication between these robots would improve monitoring efforts on debris that poses a potential threat to the environment, humans, and navigation.
In addition, the LunaTechs ran a booth at their community’s first Emergency Preparation Fair. Their booth had informational posters and handouts about invasive species and marine debris, along with an interactive quiz game. The NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Pacific Islands Regional Coordinator, Kyle Koyanagi, assisted the LunaTechs with expertise on marine debris problems and solutions in Hawaii.
The Marine Debris Program congratulates the LunaTechs for finishing 3rd place in the Robot Performance component, receiving the FLL Core Values Award, and for showing dedication to their community by working toward finding innovative solutions to combat marine debris! Congratulations LunaTechs!
By: Andrea Kealoha
Yesterday, staff from the NOAA Marine Debris Program collaborated with the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and the Polynesian Voyaging Society to teach 2nd and 3rd grade Hawaiian immersion students about the negative impacts of marine debris. The students learned about the Monument, one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world, and dissected albatross boluses filled with fishing line and plastics.
It was inspiring to learn that even at such a young age, these children are already participating in beach clean-ups! While we taught the students about marine debris, they taught us the Hawaiian word for trash – ʻōpala!
By: Andrea Kealoha
In island communities such as Hawai‘i, the health of our families is bound to the health of our ocean. We depend on the ocean for food, economic health, cultural nourishment, and enjoyment. With the intention to encourage changes in behavior, the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) works closely with a number of schools and organizations that incorporate marine debris concepts into their educational activities.
Hawai‘i’s marine debris team juggled a whirlwind of educational events over the fall semester, with a host of interactive presentations alongside multiple partners. Fourth grade students from Pearl City Highlands and Pohakea Elementary on Oahu visited the Hōkūle‘a, a Polynesian voyaging canoe that recently launched a four-month-long campaign to conduct education and outreach around the Hawaiian Islands. Students learned about the impacts of marine debris on wildlife by dissecting albatross chick boluses collected in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). Boluses are masses of indigestible material that albatross regurgitate prior to leaving the nest. They are typically composed of natural organic materials, such as squid beaks, but may also contain marine debris that the bird mistook for food. Students identified an assortment of debris in the boluses including plastics, fishing line, and even a large piece of rope, showing that marine debris can impact and harm wildlife in even the most remote areas.
The MDP and Coral Reef Ecosystem Division also visited Wai‘alae Elementary School’s 2nd grade class to show students how NOAA combats marine debris in the NWHI. Activities this year included an entanglement relay to demonstrate how an entangled animal might feel and a degradation timeline that shows how long it takes for items to break down in the ocean.
In line with MDP’s interdisciplinary approach to learning, Maui’s Pomaika‘i Elementary incorporates marine debris education using science and technology interpreted through engineering, expressed through art, and based in mathematics – an integrated educational framework known as STEAM. Every year, the entire school visits Waihe‘e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge. In addition to conducting a cleanup, the students used microscopes to observe plankton and measured pH to understand water chemistry. Marine debris collected during the cleanup is used for an annual “Art of Trash” exhibit in which artwork is constructed entirely by re-used and recyclable materials.
By incorporating marine debris into educational curriculum and working with schools and local organizations to create awareness, we can hopefully change behaviors and attitudes toward littering and create a future generation of career scientists that will assist in the sustainability of our most precious resource – the ocean!