By Mark Manuel
The marine debris team of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division on March 28 began a 21-day mission during which they will remove and survey marine debris in nearshore waters and on beaches at Midway Atoll, a remote atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that includes 2 islands with a combined area of 1.4 km2 and a lagoon and surrounding banks with an area of 223 km2 of seafloor at depths <100 m.
The primary goals of this mission, which will end on April 18, are to survey and remove derelict fishing gear and accumulated plastics that pose a threat to local wildlife, assess potential benthic habitat injury caused by marine debris, and perform a pilot study of debris accumulation along the reefs and shorelines of this atoll, which is part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
A specialized, 9-member dive team will conduct these operations: Russell Reardon, Kerry Reardon, Kevin O’Brien, James Morioka, Joao Garriques, Tomoko Acoba, Kerrie Krosky, Kristen Kelly, and Edmund Coccagna.
The accumulation study will focus on areas that were surveyed in 2012 to potentially estimate the quantity of debris that has entered Midway Atoll since it was last surveyed. The amount of debris that accumulates is of particular interest because debris items associated with the 2011 tsunami event in Japan have been observed with increased frequency in recent months. During this effort, debris that is classified as originating from the tsunami event will be reported to the international, cooperative Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Assessment and Response Framework, which was developed to coordinate assessment of and response to risks posed by marine debris from the tsunami event.
This cleanup effort is supported and funded by the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, NOAA Marine Debris Program, NOAA’s Damage Assessment Remediation and Restoration Program, and Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Stay tuned for future updates throughout this mission.