HONOLULU (KHON2) — The pandemic forced Hawaii and the world to shut down. People were encouraged to stay home for nearly nine months and few traveled to the islands.
Though that devastated Hawaii’s economy, it had the opposite effect on its environment.
More than 90,000 people came to Hawaii during the week of Monday, April 19. The amount of garbage found along Hawaii shorelines continues to increase as visitor numbers climb.
It is no secret, humans are responsible for polluting oceans and beaches. The pandemic, with its stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions, gave the environment a break.
Lisa Bishop, president of Friends of Hanauma Bay, said there was “a phenomenal natural resurgence in the marine resources of the bay” during the nine months Hanauma Bay was closed during the pandemic.
Bishop explained that the water was clearer. They even noticed more fish in the bay.
“We saw was a drastic decrease in trash on our Leeward beaches like Waikiki and the south shore,” Parley for the Ocean Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro said.
Pacarro said, there has a noticeable increase in the trash at popular tourist destinations since the lockdown was lifted.
“The vast majority of the plastics we’re seeing are the single-use plastics,” Pacarro explained. “And we’re starting to see PPE a little bit more and also cigarette butts.”
“If you’re a visitor and you’re coming to Hawaii, you’re coming here because of the beauty, so do your best to keep it beautiful,” Pacarro said.
Tourists are not the only ones to blame.
Microplastics continue to be a huge problem and garbage that is not disposed of properly ends up at the bottom of the ocean.
Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA) collected debris from the ocean floor off Magic Island Saturday.
ODA director of operations Ken Staples said there is always a lot of debris there.
“It’s a main shipping channel,” he explained. “All the boats going in and out of the harbor and a lot of stuff gets pushed off board and just collects on the bottom. It is unbelievable what we find out there.”
Divers pulled in everything from fishing nets, ropes and anchors, to plastic bottles, tires and even a mattress during their underwater clean-up.
ODA dive team leader Glenn Roberts said they are trying to make a difference and protect the ocean and the animals that live in it.
“If more and more people feel this way and take action, it’s just going to preserve the ocean, and that’s so important for all of us,” Roberts said.
“So do your best to keep it beautiful,” Pacarro said. “And it’s not just about not littering. Its about maybe just not using that stuff in the first place.”