PWF Marine Debris Action Plan Partnership

In concert with our core research, education and conservation work focused on marine mammals, Pacific Whale Foundation began to research marine debris in 2013 when we noticed how much floating trash we were encountering during whale and dolphin surveys. By conducting formal research studies we strive to understand the types and amounts of debris that are impacting Maui coasts and marine resources, as well as closely monitor the effects of education, policy and outreach on reducing marine debris. This prevalence of debris in our oceans and along our coasts has enormous impacts on marine life, including marine mammals – making the issue essential to our work.

In August 2018, Mark Manuel, the Pacific Islands Marine Debris Regional Coordinator, invited Pacific Whale Foundation to participate in a statewide working group evaluating the progress made in Hawaii since a plan was last revised in 2016. Supported by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, the group first convened in 2008 and brought together 30 representatives from government, academia, nongovernmental organizations and private businesses to prioritize marine debris issues specific to Hawaii. Over time, 48 organizations developed the Hawai‘i Marine Debris Action Plan, which established a comprehensive framework for strategic action to reduce the ecological, health and safety, and economic impacts of marine debris in Hawai‘i from 2016 through 2020.

Goals of the Plan:

  • Reduce sources of marine debris through prevention
  • Reduce the amount and impacts of ocean-based marine debris
  • Support and sustain marine debris removal
  • Increase capacity to address abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs)
  • Conduct high quality research to understand marine debris

During the August 2018 Oahu-based meeting, each of the 30 participating organizations reported progress made towards achieving these goals and then worked collaboratively revise the Action Plan for the next 2 years, creating ways that each can work together to tackle the most pressing issues facing Hawaii.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s marine debris work provided significant progress towards achieving the goals outlined in the 2016 plan and was among the top contributing organizations of the original 48 that helped to develop the plan, along with the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Surfrider Foundation, 808 Cleanups and Hawaii Wildlife Fund. We are actively working towards 4 of the 5 goals through our continued land and at-sea marine debris research, as well as our ongoing education and outreach initiatives.

“To find effective solutions to Hawaii’s marine debris problem will require all stakeholders such as governments, NGOs, academia, the private sector, and the public to work together,” remarks Pacific Whale Foundation Senior Research Analyst Jens Currie, “Marine debris accumulation is a multi-step process and PWF is focusing their efforts on understanding the “end of the line” impacts on our oceans and marine life. We want to address the issue at the source, so we can work towards effective solutions. Being included in this statewide consortium allows us to work with other organizations to target larger audiences to ensure our findings are impacting change.”

Pacific Whale Foundation has dedicated substantial resources to better understand the impact that marine debris poses to Hawaii. In addition to maintaining removal efforts, we strive to leverage these opportunities for data collection and scientific research. Working closely with the NOAA Marine Debris Program, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, we are producing the scientific research needed to assess and evaluate impactful legislative decisions and mitigation measures.

To make a donation in support of this important work, please visit

Have a group interested in making a difference with a beach cleanup activity? Sponsor a 2-3 hour event; we will provide coastal marine debris monitoring program kits, research and conservation experts, transportation and any coordination you need. Contact us

This July 4th, Pledge to Clean Beaches!

Honestly, who doesn’t love 4th of July? It’s the biggest neighborhood block party of the year, complete with family, friends and plates stacked high with Bar-B-Que.
But did you know that July 4th also represents one of the biggest inputs of trash into environment?! Beaches become strewn with red SOLO cups and fried chicken boxes, and bits and pieces of fireworks litter the sand.

Pacific Whale Foundation Ocean Campers count the trash they collected during a recent beach cleanup

Many people don’t realize the impact that trash can have our marine and coastal environments. Not only is trash on a beach unsightly, it also poses serious health risks to humans and wildlife.

Sea birds, whales, dolphins, turtles and fish, for example, regularly come into contact with trash. Oftentimes these animals mistake this trash (especially plastic) for food. Ingesting plastic can perforate an animal’s stomach or block their esophagus, which leads, ultimately, to starvation.

By cleaning our beaches, we can reduce the amount of trash that gets into the ocean, and therefore create a healthier environment for humans and marine life!

The GOOD NEWS is that so many of us care about the ocean. We care about the fish that swim under the waves and the birds that soar overhead. By working together, and each taking steps to change our lifestyles just a little bit at a time, we can clean up our beaches and ocean!


Your task for this Fourth of July, then, is to celebrate our day of Independence, while also taking the pledge to clean beaches.

Here are FOUR simple ways that you can make a difference on the 4th!

1. Find alternatives to single-use plastics: More and more people now utilize reusable cloth bags in place of plastic bags, but what about things like plastic forks or straws? Purchase a reusable knife/fork set that you can keep in your purse or car for those times when you have to hit the drive-thru or are dining out. Bringing a small Tupperware for leftovers will also help you avoid using Styrofoam containers.

2. Share this Blog Post: Education is key to cleaning up our environment. Sharing your knowledge about the impact of single-use plastics and trash with your friends and family members requires the simple click of a button, but could make a world of difference for our ocean.

3. Host a Beach Cleanup: Headed to the beach for the Fourth of July? While the burgers are cooking and the football is being thrown, gather some of your friends and family members to walk the beach and pick up trash. Even 5 or 10 minutes spent cleaning is important to animals like turtles or dolphins that may later mistake that trash for food. Don’t forget to wear gloves and bring extra trash bags!

4. Write your Local Representatives: The island of Maui ceased the use of plastic bags on January 1, 2011. Most recently, Maui County passed a law outlawing smoking and tobacco use on County beaches. These laws were passed because the residents of Maui spoke up and we asked our local government to help make a positive difference for our environment. Speak up and let’s make a difference.

Inspired to take even more action? Download Pacific Whale Foundation’s 10 Ways to Protect Our Oceans fact sheet – it will get you pointed in the right direction!

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