Painting by Laci Ah Yee (little sister of one of the E. Deluz truck drivers) after the first net loading.

Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund (HWF) is pleased to announce that 14.4 tons (28,800 pounds) of derelict fishing net and line bundles that were collected over the past couple years were moved to landfill over the past two weekends. Since 2005, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund has been diverting this particular type of recovered marine debris, called derelict fishing gear (DFG) from the landfill using the Hawai‘i Nets-to-Energy Program arranged by NOAA. This collaborative program works with local businesses including Matson’s Ka Ipu ‘Āina (container for the land) program, Schnitzer Steel, Pier 38 (POPS Marine) and Covanta (HPOWER), NOAA and local nonprofits to generate electricity for the city and County of Honolulu. Nets and line are of particular concern due to potential entanglement hazards they create for native wildlife (and boaters).

To date, HWF has moved 13 containers full of DFG to O‘ahu with this program (weighing 215,036 pounds in total) creating enough energy to power about 46 households for a year. However, due to the covid19 pandemic, Matson’s Ka Ipu ‘Āina program has been temporarily put on hold so our HWF team had to get creative to move our giant net pile from the transfer station ASAP as the County staff prepare for construction repairs to the Waiʻōhinu transfer station. But thanks to the ingenuity and generosity of two local businesses, JD Services LLC and E. Deluz Trucking, HWF was able to move most of the remaining pile of DFG collected over the past two years to the Puʻuanahulu landfill free of charge. Both the excavator, trucking company, and the County of Hawai‘i graciously waived all loading, transport, fuel, and disposal fees for these truckloads.

While some might think this is a step in the wrong direction to bury marine debris (plastic pollution), with help from a local carbon offsetting business in Captain Cook, CarbonBuddy, we have learned that less global climate changing heat and greenhouse gases “GHG” are emitted by landfilling plastic than through incineration. Plastics mostly are derived from oil and the carbon held in plastics must be sequestered back into the ground and not transformed through the use of additional energy to make a new product that will eventually degrade and be disposed of. HWF recognizes that we are in the middle of a global climate crisis and the ability for us to both remove these nets and line bundles from our shoreline (to protect native wildlife) and to dispose of them here locally (with less toxins and GHG emissions) is a win-win for humans, coral reefs, monk seals, sea turtles, and other marine animals. We also recognize that both the Nets-to-Energy program and landfilling options are temporary “solutions” and we hope that with science and innovation these DFG items that continue to wash ashore from across the Pacific can be repurposed in the future for various art installations, agriculture, upcycling, and construction initiatives around the island.

We are honored and humbled by the support of so many local businesses, community members, and government agencies to make this project so effective. Funding to conduct marine debris removal activities is made possible due to a 2018 NOAA Marine Debris Program grant to HWF that ends this September 2021. Support has also been provided over the years from Matson, Ke Kai Ala Foundation (Kona Brewers Festivals), and individual donors. HWF would also like to recognize the County of Hawai‘i’s Department of Environmental Management that has allowed us to stage nets at the Wai‘ōhinu transfer station free of charge since 2005. The vast majority of these net and line bundles are coming from commercial fishing industries outside of Hawai‘i, but we can all do our part locally to reduce the amount of single-use plastics in our lives, pick up monofilament line and hooks along the coastline and in nearshore waters, and by eating locally and striving towards “zero waste” lifestyles. A special mahalo to JD Land Services LLC, out of Ocean View, who has helped us load ten 40’ Matson containers and two end-dump truckloads full of DFG since 2008, donating both his time and equipment to the cause.

Since 2003, HWF and volunteers have removed over 300 tons of marine debris from the shores of Hawai‘i Island and these DFG bundles are about half of the total weight collected. About 95% of the total debris recovered was from the remote Kaʻū district, but marine debris has also been removed from Kona, Kohala, Hilo, and Puna shorelines. Partnering with local DLNR agencies including DOBOR (Boating and Ocean Recreation) and DAR (Aquatic Resources), derelict fishing line and net drop-off bins are also available outside the DAR offices in Kona (at Honokōhau harbor) and in Hilo within the DAR Wailoa Fisheries Research Station. If you’d like to get involved or learn more, please see our website at wildhawaii.org or contact us on the HWF Hawai‘i Island Marine Debris Hotline at 808-769-7629 (and to report large debris or DFG bundles along the coastline).