Hawai’i Conservation Conference

lauren_conference2Today marked the final day of the 22nd annual Hawai’i Conservation Conference, where the “who’s who” of the protection and management of Hawaiian ecosystems descend upon the island of O’ahu to discuss issues such as coral reef health, marine mammal protection, climate change adaptation and building local capacity.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to exhibit Pacific Whale Foundation’s fishing line recycling program during the conference, and connected with numerous individuals and organizations to help expand this important program throughout Hawai’i.

Fishing line wrapped around a coral head (Maui)

Fishing line wrapped around a coral head (Maui)

Popularized in Florida, fishing line recycling programs are now found throughout coastal states, and represent a voluntary, community-based environmental initiative. Anglers and fishermen are encouraged to not only recycle their line, but to sponsor bins that they (along with their community) will maintain in the future.

Improperly discarded fishing line can entangle wildlife (most notably turtles, fish, seabirds and wildlife), and also pose a hazard to boaters and ocean users. By encouraging anglers to recycle their line, the program both directly reduces the amount of line that ends up in the environment and reduces the amount of virgin plastic that is needed to make items such as tackle boxes or spools.  And as you may know, plastics are the number one most common piece of trash found in the environment – so the less plastic we create, the less trash we make!

Kahului Fishing Line Recycling Bin

Kahului Fishing Line Recycling Bin

To date, Pacific Whale Foundation has installed two separate bins – one at Kahului Harbor and one at Ma’alaea Harbor.  These bins have thus far collected over 5,000 feet of monofilament line!!

Marine debris is a serious issue throughout the world’s marine and coastal environments, but it is local initiatives such as recycling fishing line or encouraging the use of reusable bags and water bottles that will lead to a more healthy (and happy!) environment.  These types of initiatives, furthermore, put the change directly in the hands of the community, and in doing so, empower the people who rely directly on the resources.

To learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation’s fishing line recycling program, please visit Don’t Leave Your Line Behind.

Food Container and Balloon from the ocean.

Every Day is Oceans Day

During the summer months, the research team continues our year-round dolphin surveys and marine debris study. Last year after six months of surveys, we had 35 encounters with dolphins and collected 430 pieces of debris (e.g. plastic, Styrofoam, cardboard). That’s 12 pieces of marine debris for every dolphin sighting! Even more disturbing is that while surface debris is easy to find and collect, there is much more garbage lurking below the ocean’s surface.

One common item we find while doing ocean surveys are balloons. This is particularly true after holidays such as the 4th of July. Balloons can easily slip out of our fingers and float away, but remember: what goes up must come down.  Smaller debris items such as balloons are often mistaken for food and ingested by wildlife, leading to health problems, choking and death.

Ballooooons

What can you do to help? If you don’t already, start recycling at your house, office and school. If you can’t find a local recycling program, start your own. Participate in local clean ups. If you see litter on the ground, pick it up! If we thought more about where our garbage ends up, it would make a huge difference to the animals that call the ocean home.