Surfrider fellowships help protect beaches

LIHUE — A pair of student fellowships are helping keep Kauai’s coastline debris-free.

The Surfrider Foundation Kauai Chapter recently announced Jessica Frost and Zena Wetzel as the recipients of its two full-tuition student fellowships at Kauai Community College.

The fellowships were funded by a portion of a $25,000 grant, awarded in April and administered by the state Department of Health’s Environmental Planning Office.

“The intent of the fellowships is to engage students in active environmental programs, while at the same time enabling them to pursue college degrees in the environmental fields,” said Dr. Carl Berg, head of Surfrider’s Japanese tsunami marine debris program.

Student recipients were chosen from KCC’s Marine Options Program, with guidance from program co-coordinator Ann Willow Jorgenson, who also sits on the Surfrider Kauai Executive Committee.  

Frost continues to monitor, catalog and document the arrival of marine debris on two North Shore beaches

“I’m in my second semester at KCC in the Marine Option Program,” she said. “Ultimately, I would like to work in ocean conservation and this experience with the Surfrider Foundation has been invaluable in helping me to accomplish that goal.”

Volunteers collect debris from beaches daily and store it for Frost’s analysis. Unusual items and invasive species are noted and reported to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Wetzel’s fellowship includes, coordinating monthly beach cleanups at five beaches around Kauai, as well as weighing all the various types of debris collected each month. She also coordinates the removal of large nets and ropes, as well as weighing and recycling them through Restore Kauai.

In the last month alone, Surfrider has hauled away 4,365 pounds of derelict fish nets from local beaches, according to Dr. Berg.

“That’s not counting the 600-pound buoy and 800 pounds of plastic,” he said.

Additionally, Wetzel is responsible for documenting alien species arriving on marine debris, including mussels, barnacles, crabs and bryozoans.

“We are seeing, for the second year, the arrival of Japanese tsunami debris with the return of stronger trade winds in August,” Dr. Berg said. “Especially notable are pieces of yellow-brown industrial foam, buoys and small refrigerators.”

On Aug. 28, a 100-gallon aluminum tank containing a small amount of kerosene, a fuel that is toxic to marine life, washed ashore at Waipouli Beach, on Kauai’s Eastside.

Info: Barbara Wiedner at 635-2593

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