HONOLULU (KHON2) – It was an eye-opening mission off the Kona coast of Hawaii Island.  

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Two separate debris cleanups remind us that much of the waste in our waters is because of us.

DLNR, State Parks, Hawaii Wildlife Fund and many from the Hawaiʻi Island community partnered together to remove nets, plastics and other debris from Keawaiki and Puako Bays in Kona.

More than 1,200 pounds of debris were collected and transported for disposal and research. 

“This big net up at Puako was sitting on top of a bunch of reef structure,” says Chris Teague, Aquatic Biologist from the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources

“It had definitely smothered some corals that had been underneath it. Other pieces of plastic are ingested by animals so that does a lot of damage to them.  Some plastics will leach pollutants into the water.”

As much as marine debris is a global issue, there is one common factor.

It all comes from humans.

And its constant. 

“We removed something like 290 tons from this island with the help of community volunteers and Hawaii Wildlife Fund efforts over the last 17 years,” says Megan Lamson, President and Program Director of Hawaii Wildlife Fund. “Our friends with Surfrider Kauai are removing something on the scale of five tons a month.”

The City and County of Honolulu’s ban on single-use plastics will take effect in January.  

Similar bans in other counties will take effect the following year. 

“The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know,” says Lamson. “Plastic particles, really small microscopic in our ocean are changing the way microbes are interacting and producing oxygen for us.  So really cleaning our oceans and keeping them healthy are really important not just to wildlife, but also for humanity.”

In Hawaiian, we have the saying “Malama i ke kai” which means “to care for our oceans”.

You can be a part of the cleaning effort by reporting any marine debris you may find.  

For that information, go to the Report Marine Debris website.