I joined the community effort to pick up trash and plastic debris from the stretch of beaches from Turtle Bay Resort to Kahuku Golf Course.

When one of my endangered species buddies — Angela Huntemer — put out the word that help was needed to clean trash and plastic debris — some of it from the Japan Tsunami — from the north shores of Oahʻu, I had to help!  The event was sponsored by Sustainable Coastlines, the Surfrider Foundation, Turtle Bay Resort and the Wanderlust Festival.

Sustainable Coastlines is tackling the problem of marine debris and educating the public about the detriments of single use plastic and the Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches. The Oahʻu Chapter’s mission is to improve water quality, maintain beach and ocean access, and assure responsible development on the island of Oahʻu.

Vanessa Melendrez and I rendezvoused at the Turtle Bay Resort along with dozens of other volunteers — I would estimate about 70.  After signing in, we got sunscreen from one tent and water from another before organizing ourselves into teams.

Our plan to help Angela at Kahuku Point fell through when a van we thought would come back for a second trip never materialized.  So we joined the group that would clean the coast behind James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge.

We drove a couple miles beyond the Turtle Bay Resort to the main entrance of James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge.

We got to meet Mike Ellis, manager of the refuge (in brown cap) as he explained to Ed from the Surfrider Foundation (in red cap) how we would drive through the refuge to the coast.

We waited under the shade of the kiosk for all the volunteers to rendezvous at the refuge.

We then drove through the refuge over the dikes between ponds to the back gate where we drove to the coast.  A bunch of startled birds took to flight as our caravan drove through the refuge.

After parking our cars, we were given trash bags, and our work for the day began.  Vanessa was eager to get started and did not waste any time attacking the trash on the beach.

We walked up and down the beach picking up trash and plastic debris which was concentrated along the high tide line.  Lots of empty plastic water bottles, fishing floaters, and all manner of plastic debris littered the shore.

We saw lots of beautiful hinahina (Heliotropium anomalum) growing on the sand dunes.

Due to the recent rains the plants were green and did not have their characteristic silvery sheen.

Joby Rohrer and Kapua Kawelo — who run the Oahu Army Natural Resources Program — and their two children –joined the beach clean-up.  It was nice to see their kids laughing and having a good time picking up trash.

We picked-up lots of fishing trash like rope, floaters, ice chests, etc.  We did not see a whole lot of trash that was identifiable as coming from the Japanese Tsunami of 2011, but how does one tell anyway?  Most of the plastic trash were small pieces of broken plastic a few inches long which littered the beach — difficult to pick up because there is just so much of it.  Even worse are tiny bits of plastic under a quarter inch long that are way too numerous and small to pickup.

Seeing so much plastic debris reminded me of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The garbage patch occupies a large and relatively stationary region of the North Pacific Ocean.  The gyre’s rotational pattern draws in waste material from across the North Pacific Ocean, including coastal waters off North America and Japan. As material is captured in the currents, wind-driven surface currents gradually move floating debris toward the center, trapping it in the gyre.

Unlike organic debris that biodegrades, plastic disintegrates into ever smaller pieces while remaining a polymer. As the plastic flotsam breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces, they concentrate in the upper water column, and ultimately become small enough to be ingested by animals. On remote Midway Atoll, albatross chicks die when their parents unwittingly feed them plastic debris, which can’t be digested.

Time passed quickly as we cleaned the beach and sand dunes behind James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge.

After a couple of hours we completed our stretch of beach, consolidated our trash bags behind the refuge, and took a group shot.

When the trash was picked up and weighed, a total of 3,600 pounds of trash had been picked-up from the beaches that day!  Many thanks to Sustainable Coastlines, The Surfrider Foundation, Turtle Bay Resorts, The Wanderlust Festival, and the 70 some off volunteers, the beaches at Kahuku have been cleaned!  Unfortunately, more plastic debris washes up everyday and the work is never ending.  If anyone would like to join this effort check out these links below!


Sustainable Coastlines

The Surfrider Foundation

Ocean Trash Plaguing Our Seas