After six years of studying, monitoring, collecting, and reporting marine debris on Maui’s shoreline and in the ocean, Pacific Whale Foundation chief scientist Jens Currie will present the organization’s research findings at the 2019 Hawai‘i Marine Debris Action Plan Research Workshop. The two-day workshop is a gathering of Hawai‘i-based researchers in the field of marine debris, and covers the current state of scientific investigation, gaps in knowledge, and the scope of research resources in the state of Hawai‘i. Participants also have the chance to review the priorities of the 2017 Hawai‘i Marine Debris Action Plan.
In 2017, Currie presented general findings from PWF’s database of debris items, which now total almost 84,000 pieces, the organization said. The 2017 workshop also resulted in partnerships with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. A joint study conducted in January by PWF and NIST found that 90 percent of macro marine debris in Maui County was plastic. This year, Currie will present the organization’s findings on whether a 2014 county ordinance banning cigarettes at beaches and parks had any impact on debris, which PWF measured before and after the ban took effect in selected areas.
While data is still being analyzed, preliminary results show that cigarette butt litter remains the No. 1 debris found across survey sites. PWF researches have hypothesized this may have been due to a lack of enforcement of the ban, which has resulted in zero citations since going into effect. “If legislation is going to work,” said PWF spokesperson Alicia Wood in a statement, “ it must be enforced and possibly widened to tobacco producers and not just consumers.”
In other findings, PWF stated that increased education and outreach at and near the beach, in hotel rooms, and on signage resulted in a reduction of 52 percent of litter on the beach. The findings, along with others, are being drafted into a publication that will evaluate the effectiveness of policy on debris accumulation on Maui.
“I look forward to attending so we can learn about what others are doing to study marine debris, continue to grow partnerships and collaborations, get feedback on our current research, and work with the marine debris community to determine the full scope of impacts and come up with feasible solutions that work, whether it be through policy, education, or some other means,” said Currie.
Read more about Pacific Whale Foundation’s marine debris reduction efforts at Pacificwhale.org/conservation and Pacificwhale.org/rethink.
Image courtesy Pacific Whale Foundation