Collaborating for clean oceans

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Val Bloy and Barbara Wiedner stand with 845 pounds of debris collected off Kauai beaches on the Martin Luther King holiday.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Heather O’ Donnell stands amidst tons of nets and rope collected by the Surfrider Foundation’s Net Patrol.

LIHUE — In 2019, the Kauai Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation removed more than 100,000 pounds of marine debris from Kauai’s shorelines, keeping pace with what the organization has been removing from beaches the past few years.

The exact total came in at 104,684 pounds of nets, ropes, plastics and trash gathered, all with the help of more than 3,230 volunteers from all over Kauai who clocked more than 6,000 hours of work during 42 hosted beach cleanups. Additionally, Kauai’s Surfrider chapter hosted net cleanups 466 times in 2019.

Of that marine debris poundage total, 54% of that was nets and ropes, 30% were plastics, and 16% were other items such as boats parts, tires and assorted other trash.

The numbers are similar to those reported in 2018, when Surfrider said they were averaging about 10,000 pounds of debris collected every month. The organization was also busy with community outreach and education in local schools, weighing in on legislative issues and monitoring water quality.

And they couldn’t have done it alone.

Surfrider Foundation partnered with other agencies such as: B-Rad Foundation and Friends of Lydgate, and several resorts. Beachgoers both local and visitor help by picking up trash while walking the beach.

“Holo Holo Charters brings in heavy nets out of the ocean whenever they come across them. Seasport Divers and Scott Bacon Scuba each organized major underwater cleanup events, hauling in hundreds of pounds of debris caught on the reefs and rolling around on the ocean floor,” said Surfrider Chair and Ocean Friendly Gardens Coordinator Cynthia Welti.

The whole collection of trash, nets and other marine debris is stored at a material recovery facilty in Kapaa, where organizers are searching for good ways to repurpose or recycle the debris. They’ve tried working with companies to recycle it into shoes and shampoo bottles, and shipping it to Oahu for use in energy generation, but have yet to find an effective solution for disposal.

Byfusion is one of the alternatives they are now exploring — compressing the nets and plastic collected from the beaches into blocks for building. Last year, they created a shelter hale out of those blocks a through the Byfusion process.

Besides working with schools, they have recognized 28 restaurants island wide as “Ocean Friendly,” and they encourage people to eat there regularly. Ocean Friendly restaurant practices include reducing the amount of straws in the restaurants and eliminating polystyrene use. Recycling, avoding plastic bags and offering discounts for resuable dishware are all on the list as well, for Ocean Friendly Restaurants.

Surfrider doesn’t stop there, either. They also work with residents and recognize yards as “Ocean Friendly Gardens,” which means there is no usage of toxic chemicals or water runoff leading to the ocean. As of today, they have 20 gardens that qualify for this recognition.

Upcoming Net Patrol cleanups are:

w Wednesday, Feb. 5: Kealia Beach north end near restrooms, 3:45 p.m., for cleanup on rocky coastline on Kealia coastal path, working towards Donkey Beach. Expect to be finished by 6 p.m.’

w Wednesday, Feb. 12: Ahukini area, proceeding through yellow gate behind Lihue Airport, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., as gates close at 5:30 p.m. Meet in small parking area near the orange wind flag on Lihue airport field. The parking location is parallel to the main runway;

w Saturday, Feb. 15: Rocky coastline cleanup with Sustainable Coastlines-Oahu, with meeting place, time and location TBA, either at Nawiliwili Beach Park or Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor early morning;

w Wednesday, Feb. 19: Marine Camp on Nukoli‘i motocross track side. The entrance is near the Wailua Golf Course, south end. Meet at beach at 3:45 p.m., expect to be finished by 6 p.m.;

w Wednesday, Feb. 26: Aliomanu Beach parking lot, 3:45 p.m. Hike down to the beach. Expect to be finished by 6 p.m.;

w Saturday, Feb 29: Leap year day beach cleanup, Nukoli‘i Beach on Kauai Beach Resort side near the restroom and picnic table. Enter KBR and go through small tree tunnel then take first right to the beach park. Start time is at 9 a.m. and expected to be finished at 11:30 a.m.

Sturdy shoes are recommended for all sites, and volunteers are encouraged to bring water.

Attending one or all of the cleanups will provide an opportunity to combat the constant arrival of plastics, nets and other debris on Kauai’s beaches, according to Surfrider Co-Chair Community Outreach and Education Coordinator Barbara Wiedner.

“The problem of marine debris and plastic pollution is not going away. It is getting worse, as we are seeing micro-plastics at high-tide lines in Hanalei, and nets are coming in all over the island. We need to work together by stop relying on and buying single-use plastic. Let’s cut it out of our island life,” Wiedner said.

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Stephanie Shinno, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

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