A group of volunteers returned from Kanapou, Kahoolawe Friday after spending the last four days removing marine debris from the shores of the protected and culturally significant island.
This project was funded by the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ “Japan Goodwill Fund.”
In 2013, the State of Hawaii received $250,000 as part of an initial partial distribution of a $5 million gift to the United States by the Government of Japan to help the Pacific Coast States (AK, WA, OR, CA and HI) address marine debris associated with the massive 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
For this week’s project, an estimated 1.5 tons were collected by the volunteers and removed by helicopter airlift from Kahoolawe to Maui for disposal. Some materials were kept on island for use in erosion control projects.
The project cost was approximately $30,000.
“The volunteers have done an outstanding job cleaning up our coastal ecosystem, by removing derelict fishing gear, nets, a huge variety of plastics and other debris,” said Michael Nahoopii, executive director of the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC). “Their work helps promote the health of a wide variety of marine species including several species of threatened or endangered animals. Given the lack of state funding for this type of work, we’re in debt to Japan for providing the necessary financial resources to enable this effort.”
Similar cleanups have previously been conducted on Kahoolawe with the help of federal funds. In 2014, a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) allowed KIRC staff and volunteers to remove an estimated 10 tons of trash from Oawawahie, Kanapou and Puhianenue beaches.
Since 2013, Hawaii and the other Pacific Coast States have used the Japan Gift Fund to support local marine debris activities relating to not only removal and disposal, but also for invasive species mitigation, as well as detection and monitoring efforts, and outreach communications.
Though the actual origins of very few marine debris items can be confirmed, every effort has been made to try to trace items that appear to be Japanese in origin and bear identifying marks that might link them to the 2011 tsunami.
In Hawaii, since the first confirmed item arrived in September 2012, NOAA and DLNR, in cooperation with the Japanese Consulate, have so far compiled a short list of only 30 items, out of several hundred reported, that the Government of Japan has been able to confirm as originating from the 2011 tsunami.
The following images were provided by the Department of Land and Natural Resources.