The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is the second largest protected area in the world – it is a World Heritage listed U.S. National Monument consisting of 583,000 square miles of ocean waters, ten islands, and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. But even with its greatly important status, its natural and cultural value, and its biodiversity, this area still is not safe from our trash. Every year, about 50 tons of marine debris are removed from the faraway Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and all of that waste comes to the site from other places – places all around the globe.
Recently, approximately 100,000 pounds of marine debris have been removed from the monument, specifically from Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary and Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial. According to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument website, the amount of trash filled up twelve shipping containers, which is more or less the equivalent of the size and weight of twelve school buses!
The action was carried out thanks to the collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the State of Hawaii, and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), whose staff and volunteers had been collecting the debris from the beaches and reefs throughout the last six years, storing it until the shipment to Honolulu was possible.
The efforts to remove marine debris from the area started in 1996, but the waste keeps accumulating consistently and in no lesser quantities. According to NOAA, in the past 20 years, 935 tons of plastic and fishing gear in total have been removed from the monument’s shorelines and reefs.
The trash collected in the monument was made up of typical things we throw away without much though about what is going to happen to them, like lighters, toothbrushes, and bottles. This fact shows just how crucial it is for each of us to care for what we are getting rid of and the way we are doing it. Globally, we produce 300 million tons of plastic waste every year. Around 8.8 million tons of it ends up in the oceans. Plastic is a serious threat to many animals, especially marine mammals and birds who risk entanglement and ingest little pieces of it with tragic consequences. Currently, around 700 species of marine animals is facing extinction due to the dangers of plastic waste.
To learn more about how to eliminate single-use plastics from your daily life, join One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!
All image source: USFWS – Pacific Region/Flickr