Clean up the ocean, save marine life

Thank you, Phillip Bustamante.

When the man visiting Kauai saw a green sea turtle in trouble, he did what we hope all of us would do. He saved it.

Bustamante and others were eating breakfast on the roof at the Kapaa Beach House Hostel when he spotted the turtle trapped in a net.

It was completely tangled and needed help. Fortunately, it got it. Bustamante went out and cut the turtle free.

The large fishing net the turtle was trapped in apparently washed in during the recent east wind swell offshore just east of the Kapaa Neighborhood Center. Bustamante could not pull the entire net from the water, but did what he could.

Stories of whales and turtles and other marine life entangled in discarded fishing nets surface every now and then. We all know the ocean is full of trash that affects, even kills, marine life. We know that nets and buoys are lost at sea and float around for months, years. The amount that is pulled from the water is a fraction of what’s out there. Frankly, if people knew how much garbage was in the ocean, they would be depressed.

Which is why we’re glad we have groups like Kauai Chapter of Surfrider Foundation. Because of the work of people like these volunteers, thousands of pounds of marine debris and nets have been removed from Kauai’s beaches. In 2016, volunteers gathered 80,000 pounds of debris.

If you can join them in this effort, please do. It can and will make a difference. Here are some upcoming beach cleanups: Mahaulepu, Aug. 26; Hanamaulu, Sept. 23; Nukoli’i, Oct. 28; Donkey, Nov. 25; Kealia, Dec. 23.

Perhaps you have heard of what is called the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch. It is basically a floating city of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean estimated at seven million tons and twice the size of Texas and up to nine feet deep. This all started with a few pieces of trash long ago. If we can remove a few pieces of trash, one by one, perhaps some day that battle can be won.

It’s worth noting that last year, Kauai Community College’s own Elizabeth Kain published her first scientific research paper with the help of the Kauai Surfrider, and the findings have proven significant for Kauai’s endangered seabirds.

The paper is entitled “Plastic ingestion by Newell’s and wedge-tailed shearwaters in Hawaii,” and looks at the connection between ocean plastics and the seabirds.

Kain’s research found that the frequency of plastic ingestion in Newell’s shearwater drastically increased from 11 percent in 1987 to 50 percent in the recent study.

A total of 30 Newell’s shearwater fledglings were sampled, along with 19 adult and 13 fledgling wedge-tailed shearwaters, according to the paper. Plastic items were found in the proventriculus — the part of the bird’s stomach between the crop and the gizzard — and the gizzard of both species, while no plastic was detected in the intestinal tract.

Fifteen of the Newell’s shearwater fledglings were found with no plastic. The Newell’s shearwater fledglings contained a total of 36 pieces of plastic, most of which were white and black. Wedge-tailed shearwater fledglings ingested a total of 31 pieces of plastic, the majority of which was white. During dissections, threads and hard plastics were found in the seabirds, and 70 percent of items ingested by the Newell’s and wedge-tailed shearwater fledglings were classified as microplastics.

Recycling and reusing plastics are some of the best ways to help the situation at sea, according to scientists. Another way to help? It’s simple. Stop tossing trash in the ocean.

Until then, marine life, like the green sea turtle tangled in that net, is going to need our help. Thankfully, we have people like Phillip Bustamante, and groups like Surfrider, taking the lead.

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