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article image57 tons of garbage removed from national marine monument

By Karen Graham     Nov 19, 2014 in Environment
Imagine if you will, a 57 ton pile of garbage sitting in your front yard. It's not a pretty sight. Now, imagine a beautiful underwater world, teeming with living corals and sea creatures, all trying to survive with 57 tons of garbage on top of them.
The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii is one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. Covering 140,000 square miles, it includes 10 islands and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Proclaimed a national monument in 2007, the marine national monument was also named a World Heritage site in 2010.
Map of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (formerly the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Nati...
Map of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (formerly the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument) — of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, in Honolulu County, of the state of Hawaiʻi.
The uninhabited islands, sea mounts and coral reefs of the marine refuge are home to millions of sea birds and an amazing array of marine creatures and plants. The refuge is also home to the threatened green sea turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Once a pristine area, recognized for its cultural and natural values, the monument today is being defaced by human kinds trash.
In October the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sent a group of 17 divers aboard the Oscar Elton Sette to clean up the refuge. The team spent 33 days removing 57 tons of garbage from in and around the site. Besides rescuing sea turtles trapped in and under derelict fishing nets draped over beds of coral, the divers also removed the trappings of man's extravagance and sloth.
The endangered Hawaiian monk seal inhabits the marine refuge.
The endangered Hawaiian monk seal inhabits the marine refuge.
Over 7,000 pieces of plastic, 3,758 bottle caps, 1,469 plastic drink bottles and close to 500 lighters were pulled from the reefs and off the beaches. There were many fishing nets, lost by factory-fishing trawlers. One net alone was 28 feet long and 7.0 feet wide, weighing 11.5 tons.
Divers shown collecting trash for removal.
Divers shown collecting trash for removal.
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Mark Manuel is operations manager for NOAA Fisheries Coral Reef Ecosystem Division and chief scientist for the mission. Manuel said, "The amount of marine debris we find in this remote, untouched place is shocking. Every day, we pulled up nets weighing hundreds of pounds from the corals. We filled the dumpster on the Sette to the top with nets, and then we filled the decks. There's a point when you can handle no more, but there's still a lot out there."
Most people think the amount of trash picked up by the dive team was an accumulation that took years to form. But surprisingly, for NOAA, this is an annual accumulation. They have been cleaning the refuge yearly since 1996. They have removed a grand total of 906 tons of garbage in that time.
While the Environmental Protection Agency encourages people to help in stopping pollution by "reducing, reusing and recycling," it still doesn't address the fact that many people are lazy when it comes to taking care of our environment.
More about Hawaiian marine refuge, NOAA, World Heritage Site, tons of garbage, annual accumulation
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