Small triumphs, lasting impact

LIHUE — Tryg and Helene Larsen moved to Kapaa a few months ago from Boston and they immediately dove into helping the ocean.

Now, they’re fixtures every Wednesday at Net Patrol’s beach cleanups.

Helene said the couple were looking for ways to get involved.

“We wanted to meet people and help out the island,” she said. “And it’s fun, too.”

Wednesday evening, near Ahukini Landing, Helene was celebrating what she called a “small triumph” — she’d finally freed an old tire from the rocks.

“Someone will have to come down here and get it, but I finally got it out of there,” she said.

Her husband was a little ways up the beach, working on a tangled mass of thin net lodged in the boulders.

“This is kind of like a scab, and I’ll pick at it for a long time and when it’s finally free, it’ll be a victory,” he said.

Further along the coast, veteran duo Doug Killpatrick from Kilauea and Scott McCubbins from Wailua worked on a larger heap of thick rope.

“We’ve been working on this net for two weeks,” McCubbins said. “We have to cut it up and then pull it out, then we transport it out of here.”

McCubbins and Killpatrick have been with Net Patrol since 2013 and are usually accompanied by a small group on the Wednesday cleanups. Cleanups on the fourth Saturday of each month usually attract around 30 volunteers.

“We’re here to ease the suffering of animals and have a direct impact,” Killpatrick said.

Barbara Wiedner, vice president of the Surfrider Foundation Kauai Chapter, said Net Patrol started in 2007, with a few volunteers banding together to remove a huge net from the beach.

“We did a whole beach cleanup that day, but we couldn’t get this one net, so we had to come back,” Wiedner said. “We ended up removing a couple hundred pounds of net off that beach and that’s how it started.”

It was on an as-needed basis that Net Patrol was dispatched until McCubbins showed up, Wiedner said.

“It’s just wonderful to have him that committed,” Wiedner said. “With his help, we’ve been able to get nets that we haven’t been able to get to before because they’re too hard to reach.”

The pieces of the net that McCubbins and Killpatrick were able to extract from the rocks on Wednesday will be added to a pile that’s being stored at Restore Kauai in Kapaa.

Every two years, Surfrider ships a container full of nets to H-Power, an energy-from-waste facility on Oahu. On Saturday, Surfrider will be hosting a net recycling celebration at Restore Kauai, where the nets that have been collected for the past 16 months will be loaded into a container.

The event starts at 9 a.m. and after, the group will move to the park, where there will be refreshments, food and time to talk story. Everyone is invited to attend.

Though nets are a big part of the debris that’s collected from Kauai’s beaches, plastic is also prevalent along the coastline.

“Last month we shipped out close to two tons of beach plastic to Method to be used in soap bottles,” Wiedner said.

Method is a company that makes bottles with 10 percent of the materials coming from recycled ocean plastic.

“When we had all those bins in the trailer there it was like, wow, we helped prevent all that plastic from going into our landfill or back into our oceans,” Wiedner said.

Last year, 37,000 pounds of nets, trash and marine debris were collected from Kauai’s beaches.

“We don’t know where it comes from,” Wiedner said, “but we have seen a higher percentage of plastic from Japan from the tsunami. It also could be the Pacific gyre patch break-off.”

Since the 2011 tsunami, she said Surfrider volunteers have found around 30 propane cylinders of all shapes and sizes, as well as new tires — with rims in perfect condition and the tread still good.

“Also beams that came from the tsunami, we cut them and did some testing and found that Japan is the only place that those beams came from,” Wiender said.

Most of the marine debris washes up on the eastern shore of Kauai because of the currents, she explained.

On Wednesday, Tyrig was sure he’d found something that came from the Far East; a piece of plastic with faded writing printed on its face.

“You can see here that this writing is Japanese,” Tryig said. “This came from Japan all the way over here.”

If you see a net, or any other large amount of marine debris, call the Net Hotline at (808) 635-2593.

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Jessica Else, enviromental reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

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