Tsunami Marine Debris Dock Goes Missing Off the Coast of Hawaii

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the state’s lead agency for responding to reported possible Japan tsunami marine debris in Hawaii, is coordinating with NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard to identify the current location of a 30 by 50-foot floating dock that was last seen on Wednesday, Sept. 19, by fishermen off the north coast of Molokai.

This dock was photographed by fisherman off the coast of Molokai on September 19th and now the DLNR is looking for it.

The dock is believed to be identical to three others reported missing from Japan after the March 2011 tsunami. Another one recently came ashore on an Oregon beach earlier this year.

This dock washed up on Oregon’s shores

”DLNR’s priority, with the critical help of the public and federal partners, is to re-find this large floating object, which is a hazard to vessels at sea and the wellbeing of our coastal resources. We need to be able to track its movement to try to intercept and handle the dock at sea, and to prevent serious environmental damage if it should reach shore,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson.

DLNR has requested that boaters, fishers and pilots be alert to the possible presence of the dock and to immediately report any sightings of the dock to (808) 587-0400. NOAA is also requesting that sightings of marine debris be reported to diasterdebris@noaa.gov.

The Japan Consulate in Honolulu has been notified and, if the dock is relocated, will work with DLNR and NOAA to confirm the dock’s origin.

DLNR and the Department of Health (with assistance as needed from other state agencies) along with NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S .Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working together on the Hawaii response to marine debris from the 2011 Japan earthquake and resulting tsunami. The  interagency working group is coordinating with various federal, state and county partners, as appropriate, to facilitate response and regularly communicate to the public. NOAA continues to assist with model trajectories for possible movement of the dock by currents and winds, and has readied two satellite tracking buoys for state use should the dock be located.

On Tuesday, DLNR received a call from a Molokai resident who reported seeing styrofoam on a rocky cliff shoreline on the Molokai north coast. DLNR arranged for its Maui helicopter contractor to survey the north shores of Molokai and Lanai yesterday afternoon. Two staff members from the Division of Aquatic Resources Maui office participated as observers. A large quantity of foam pieces were noticed west of Moomomi and a ball of fishing debris. However there was no sighting of the dock in either location.

DLNR also received a report yesterday from a Laie resident who had found two large and one smaller black buoy on a local beach. There was no marine growth on them. The buoys were tested by the Department of Health and normal background levels of radiation were found.


The public is invited to contact DLNR at (808) 587-0400 to report findings of possible tsunami marine debris. If possible, we request that a picture of the debris with a detailed description of the object, date found, location and finder’s contact information, be sent to dlnr@hawaii.gov this information will help DLNR staff to determine if a more thorough investigation is necessary. Reports may also made to NOAA at DiasasterDebris@noaa.gov DisasterDebris@noaa.gov

DLNR staff also checked out a large piece of yellow foam that was reported in Kahaluu earlier this week. It measured 4 inches wide by 4 feet long, with chicken wire molded between. It had a small amount of gooseneck barnacles (not of concern) on one side, but no other growth. There were no identifying marks and it did not look to be tsunami generated.

Other actions to locate the floating dock Between September 21 and 22, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted three flights where Coast Guard aircrews were able to observe the area between Molokai and Oahu for any sign of marine debris. No sightings were reported, and the dock has not yet been relocated. The Coast Guard also used a search and rescue computer program to plot the potential drift of the object using the last reported sighting of the dock from local fishermen on September 19.

The Coast Guard has systems in place to report significant objects and other hazards in the water through the issuance of notice to mariners. A broadcast notice to mariners has been issued that contains a description of the floating dock, the time and date it was sighted and the last known location. Cmdr. Martin Smith, chief of marine environmental response for the 14th Coast Guard District said, “The Coast Guard would like to remind mariners, as always, to remain on the lookout for debris or any other dangers while at sea.”

In conjunction with routine Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane law enforcement deployments and surveillance patrols of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine Monument, the Coast Guard has been on the lookout for marine debris in an attempt to help NOAA identify and track it.

On December 6, 2011, one such flight provided surveillance of a 58,000 square mile area off Midway; an area approximately the size of the state of Alabama. A small refrigerator was sighted, but nothing else.

On January 17, 2012, a second Hercules, with observers from NOAA and EPA aboard, provided surveillance covering 78,700 square miles; an area approximating the size of the state of North Dakota.No debris whatsoever was sighted.

Both of these flights were conducted in an area of the highest risk/probability of forecast debris  approaching the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, using University of Hawaii and NOAA drift modeling data. Routine law enforcement patrols continue to provide opportunities to search for marine debris.

The state is also collaborating with the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument as well as external stakeholders to assess and monitor the movement of other Japan tsunami marine debris. The Japan Ministry of the Environment estimates that 5 million tons of debris washed into the ocean (not the 25 million tons according to initial estimates). They further estimated that 70 percent of debris sank near the coast of Japan soon after the tsunami. Models and estimates completed by NOAA and the University of Hawai‘i reveal that some high-floating debris may have passed near or washed ashore on the Main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as early as this summer.  During the summer, debris was found along the Pacific Coast of North America from Alaska southward to California.

Because most tsunami debris was washed out to sea before the release of radioactive materials from the power plant and because of its extended exposure to the elements, it is highly unlikely that the debris would be contaminated.

Even though the likelihood of discovering radioactive contamination on marine debris is low, the state Department of Health has been conducting shoreline surveillance since April 2011, in order to establish normal background radiation levels around the islands. The state Department of Health continues to conduct quarterly shoreline environmental surveys on O‘ahu, Maui. Kaua‘i, and the Hawai‘i Island.

Results of the surveys performed displays consistency with normal background radiation levels.

Additionally, the state Department of Health has partnered with NOAA to perform shoreline and debris monitoring on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii Man Makes List of World’s Most Extremely and Strangely Modified People

A list was recently made of the world’s most extremely and strangely modified people and a Hawaii resident has made the list:

Kala Kawai

Kala Kawai The Horned Man: Kala Kawai owns studio of body modification in Hawaii. 75% of his body is covered with Tattoo and has 67 piercings. He holds the record for the world’s largest implanted horns.

Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest Moves Closer to Reality

The Hawai’i Forest Institute (HFI) was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation and a $10,000 grant from the Pettus Foundation for the Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest.  Earlier this year, HFI’s affiliate the Hawai’i Forest Industry Association (HFIA) was awarded a $49,100 for the project through the Hawai’i Tourism Authority Natural Resources Program, administered by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest Site Plan

“We are pleased to have been selected by these respected organizations for funding of the Children’s Discovery Forest,” said Heather Simmons HFI’s Executive Director.  “It illustrates their belief that projects like this are needed to teach our keiki and the public about Hawaii’s unique flora and fauna in a culturally sensitive way.”

Located near the zoo entrance and adjacent to the future site of a Native Hawaiian Village, the Discovery Forest will be a representation of natural systems, creating a scene of Hawai’i before the arrival of humans. Native and Polynesian introduced species will be planted. The project will demonstrate culturally significant plant and tree species that once grew near traditional shoreline villages of O’ahu.

The endangered Oahu tree snail, Achatinella mustelina. Photo: Leland Miyano.

This replication of these coastal ecosystems will provide habitat for Hawaiian plants, birds, and invertebrates. The exhibit will be designed to demonstrate culturally significant Hawaiian plant species, the significance of place, and the kuleana of mālama ‘āina (responsibility to care for the land) by integrating traditional Hawaiian forest ecosystems, forest stewardship opportunities, and innovative land-based education for residents and visitors, with an emphasis on providing learning activities for our youngest keiki.

“With the support of these funders and other community partners, HFI will soon realize its dream of re-creating a place where our keiki, residents and visitors can experience a range of Hawaiian ecosystems from coastal environments to upper dryland forests,” stated Travis Idol, HFI’s President of the Board of Directors.

Renowned landscape designer, artist, and author Leland Miyano is working with award-winning landscape architects PBR Hawaii & Associates, Inc. to lead the landscape design planning process.  The topographical survey, schematic design plan, and initial landscape plans have been completed.  HFI plans to break ground in January and engage community volunteers in installing the project in 2013.

The project will start with the strand vegetation of the coast and proceed to the dryland and mesic forest; using examples of indigenous and endemic flora.  Plants that are associated with educational stories will be prominently displayed.  The landscape of the Polynesian-introduced flora will be presented and educational programs will be developed related to topics such as evolution, ecological lessons, endangered species, watershed protection, ahupua’a resource management, and invasive species.

The Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest is being modeled after the Pana’ewa Zoo Discovery Forest, a forest demonstration project being created at the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens in Hilo.


Elections Official Kawauchi Responds to Missed Election Workshop

The Office of the Hawaii County Clerk has received media inquiries concerning the elections workshops organized by the State Office of Elections. The State Office of Elections workshop schedule is as follows: (1) September 10, 2012 – Kauai; (2) September 27, 2012 – Maui; and (3) October 4, 2012 – Oahu. The media has questions concerning the reason why the Hawaii County Clerk did not attend the September 10, 2012 training on Kauai.

Jamae Kawauchi stated, “I did not attend the September 10, 2012 workshop on Kauai because I had already been scheduled to meet with Hawaii Island precinct officials on September 10, 2012 to discuss the primary election, issues and concerns presented by the primary election, and preparation and planning for the November 6, 2012 general election. The State Office of Elections was notified of the scheduling conflict and that the Deputy County Clerk and the elections division would be attending the workshop on Kauai in my place. I also let them know that I would be attending the trainings to be held on Maui and on Oahu.”

Jamae Kawauchi further stated, “We are grateful for the support that the State Office of Elections and the counties have extended to Hawaii County. I will continue to ask for their support to help me and the elections division staff ensure that Hawaii County has a fair and well-run election.”

“In the meetings with Hawaii County precinct officials, we are connecting with them, and I am thankful for the opportunity to get to know these dedicated, earnest and community-service minded citizens. I am impressed with their commitment to give more than 100% effort in their positions as precinct officials and I look forward to continuing to work with the State Office of Elections, the counties, the precinct officials and the public to ensure a fair and well-run general election.”