KAPAA — Shirley Corda pushed aside any rock that might cause her to slip, braced her legs and pulled the rope hanging over the cliffside with the weight of her whole body.
Tied to the end of that rope was a giant mash of fishing net, one of about a dozen loads recovered Tuesday morning from the coastal rocks across the road from Kaiakea fire station. This particular blue, yellow and white entanglement Corda was hauling likely weighed hundreds of pounds.
“That was hard,” Corda panted. “Glad I ate my Cheerios.”
Surfrider Foundation’s Kauai Chapter and monk seal watch volunteers spent three hours dismantling a washed-up, thousand-pound fishing net from the coast for fear it might entangle monk seals, dolphins and other creatures if left at shore.
Barbara Wiedner, Surfrider’s beach cleanup and net control coordinator, said the fishing net is a conglomeration of about 25 different nets tangled together. Wiedner said it appears to have floated to Kauai from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vortex of marine debris that lies in an area between Hawaii and California.
For days, the net had been floating in nearshore waters, at one point coming within a dozen feet of a pair of monk seals, according to monk seal watch volunteers who saw it. When the net came to rest on the shoreline, a team of volunteers with knives and gloves trekked down the cliffside to cut it out.
“You’re doing it, guys!” Wiedner hollered as a team of 22 volunteers worked under a blaring sun. “All kinds of whales and monk seals are thanking you.”
It took 35 man hours to slice the net into pieces and haul it up the cliff. All told, 1,327 pounds of net were recovered.
“It’s kind of like when you see a big mango, and you want to take a picture of it next to your hand so you can show your friends and try to have them understand how big it is,” said Corda, a 55-year-old Kapaa resident.
So far this year, Surfrider volunteers have spent 1,200 hours removing 16,000 pounds of debris from the coastline. Fishing nets account for about a third of that weight.
The pieces of net recovered Tuesday will be transported to Restore Kauai in Kapaa for storage. When there’s enough net to fill a shipping container, the material will be transported to Oahu where it will be burned for electricity.
Community members can also take pieces of net for art or gardening projects.
“Like any enormous problem, you kind of need to break it into manageable pieces,” Wiedner said. “It’s kind of like a metaphor for life. You see this massive, heavy net and you’re like, ‘What could I ever do about it?’ But you get a bunch of people working together to problem solve and look at us now.”