100 Participate in International Symposium Hosted by Hawai’i Wildlife Fund

Last week, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund (HWF) & World Ocean Collective (WOC) hosted their first ever international symposium in Hilo, Hawaii, entitled the 2015 Hilo Symposium on Marine Debris & Tsunami Driftage: Dialogue on marine debris removal, prevention, disaster recovery and making connections around the North Pacific.

Photo of the symposium attendees after Friday night’s public event.

Photo of the symposium attendees after Friday night’s public event.

It took place on December 3rd-4th, 2015 at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)’s Mokupāpapa Discovery Center in downtown Hilo, followed by a culminating beach cleanup event hosted by HWF at Kamilo Point, Ka’ū District, Hawai’i Island on December 5th.

HWF worked together with local marine debris partners (including Surfrider Foundation, Kōkua Hawaii Foundation, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources, County of Hawai‘i Aquatics Department and local Int’l Coastal Cleanup coordinators); groups from the Pacific Northwest (Washington CoastSavers, SOLVE Oregon, Lion’s Club International); and Japan (Japan Environmental Action Network “JEAN”, Sea Beautification Society) to achieve the following goals:

  1. Share effective recovery and removal techniques;
  2. Spread the word about tsunami and disaster preparedness;
  3. Share updates and new information about ongoing marine debris prevention work; and
  4. Make connections and work together to reduce the amount of marine debris in our world’s oceans and waterways.

In total, 50 participants attended the entire two-day symposium and subsequent cleanup event where over 1,000 pounds of marine debris were collected for disposal, art projects and recycling. Well over 100 people attended the public symposium on Friday evening (Dec. 4th) in downtown Hilo. Working with members of the international marine debris removal community, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund showcased the work of non-profit and agency partners around the Pacific shorelines that has been accomplished in response to and since the March 11th, 2011 earthquake and tsunami tragedy in East Japan. Presentations were given by experts from Hawai‘i Island, O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, Washington State, British Columbia, Georgia, and Japan.

“We are humbled by the turnout of this past week and have made new friends and allies in our mission to remove and prevent marine debris to protect native wildlife. The three days with our partners around the North Pacific were very productive”, said Megan Lamson, HWF’s Hawaiʻi Island Program Director. “Marine debris is everyone’s problem and is a worldwide issue. We have to think globally and act locally to inspire the change we seek in this world. By coming together to share stories and to discuss effective cleanup strategies as a team, we can reduce the amount of marine debris in our world’s oceans hopefully even prevent it.”

Group shot after the Kamilo cleanup event where over 1,000 lbs. of debris were  removed in about three hous by HWF and volunteers.

Group shot after the Kamilo cleanup event where over 1,000 lbs. of debris were removed in about three hous by HWF and volunteers.

There were eight presentations each day, including a keynote speech by Dr. Walter Dudley, Emeritus Professor of Marine Geology and Oceanography with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, where he taught for over 30 years. Dudley also serves as Science Advisory Council chair with the Pacific Tsunami Museum. During his talk, he shared the science of tsunamis, preparedness advice, facts about local Hilo tsunamis, and also stories about how disaster debris saved lives (when it was used as life rafts).

In addition, shorter presentations were shared by the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Regional Coordinator, Surfrider Kauaʻi cleanup coordinators, International Pacific Research Center scientists, Resource Mapping Hawai‘i, cleanup coordinators in the Pacific Northwest and Japan (JEAN), and two debris artists from British Columbia, Peter Clarkson, and Atlanta, Pam Longobardi.

In addition, an update was provided on marine debris monitoring and response by DLNR’s new Marine Debris Coordinator, Kirsten Moy, who introduced Resource Mapping’s Miguel Castrence to discuss the aerial-ortho imagery their company is collecting to identify current marine debris and “JTMD” (Japan Tsunami Marine Debris) hotspots around each of the shorelines in the Main Hawaiian Islands.

Both this aerial survey project and the debris coordinator position were funded by donations from the Japan Ministry of the Environment after the March 2011 East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Moy shared that as of September 2015, 64 debris items had been confirmed as JTMD and about half of them, or 30, had washed ashore in Hawaiʻi or were discovered in Hawaiian waters.

The evening was concluded with a final talk from Angela Kang, coordinator of the Hawai‘i Zero Waste Alliance. Kang’s presentation was titled, “The Tao of Zero Waste” and she urged audience members to live a more pono lifestyle by only purchasing items that can be recycled or composted, and not incinerated or landfilled. Lamson closed the evening by adding that, “There is no time for negativity and we must all be on board together to stop this global flood of marine debris”.

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