Derelict fishing net bundle entangled on a coral reef. Photo by L. Kramer.

With support from NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, the collaborative partnership between Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund (HWF), Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i (SRK) and Pūlama Lāna‘i is on track to meet and exceed our planned marine-debris activity schedule and performance measures, in spite of the delays and cancellations incurred since March 2020 due to COVID-19.

During the past six-months (Apr – Sept 2020), we conducted a total of 18 beach cleanup events (11 on Hawai‘i Island, 5 on Kaua‘i, and 2 on Maui) and 58 net-recovery patrols focusing on large net and line bundles (48 on Kaua‘i, and 10 on Hawai‘i). Now, two years into this HN-MDR partnership, our three groups have collectively removed over 159.3 metric tons (351,159 pounds) and have exceeded our initial goal of recovering 112 metric tons. On average since 2016, our HWF and SRK teams are hauling over 86 metric tons of marine debris off our shores each year – approximately 15,800 pounds each month!!


Hawaiian Monk Seal hauled out resting next to a derelict fishing net pile, and dead wedge-tailed shearwaters entangled in a DFG. Both photos by Surfrider Fdn Kaua‘i.

Furthermore, an estimated 45.7% of the 159.3 metric tons recovered to-date were fishing / shipping / industry types of net and line bundles (a.k.a., derelict fishing gear “DFG”). This is important because DFG, including monofilament line, is especially hazardous to native wildlife due to the risk of entanglement. Our groups are committed to removing (and preventing) marine debris to reduce the chance of negative impact to our marine protected species. In total over this two-year grant, we have amassed 93 wildlife reports that documented 106 individual monk seals, whales, and sea turtles observed during this HN-MDR partnership, or approximately 14% of all our marine debris removal activities (664). The vast majority of these observations have been from the island of Kaua‘i (96%) with just two observations each from Maui (2%) and Hawai‘i (2%). Unfortunately, 5 marine debris entanglements were also noted, including 3 dead animals (2 shearwaters, 1 billfish) and 2 live green sea turtles (that were disentangled from the monofilament fishing line and released) – highlighting the importance of our work and continued diligence to the plastic pollution problem.

HWF team (Sarah, Meg, Jen) pose for a photo on the DFG netpile after a cleanup.

Join us on Hawai‘i Island or Maui (HWF website calendar), or check out our friends on Kaua‘i (Surfrider Kaua‘i events) to participate in an organized cleanup activity for this HD-MDR partnership or plan to host your own DIY-style solo cleanup event whenever you are along the coastline near you! Every piece YOU collect will help ensure wildlife is safe and habitats are clean. Follow statewide marine debris removal activities using the #himarinedebris hashtag and also help us be on the lookout for PPE that may also be littering our environment!