A Very Trashy Day Of Fishing

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - June 03, 2009
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Stand-up paddlers head into Maunalua Bay looking for trash

This wasn’t your ordinary fishing trip, but then again these weren’t your ordinary fishermen.

On May 24, about 50 stand-up paddle-boarders made the trek from Maunalua Bay in Hawaii Kai to Waialae Beach Park in Kahala fishing for litter with their paddles.

“We had a great turnout, and it was a perfect example of what a community can do when it comes together,” says Malama Maunalua coordinator Alyssa Miller. “We had many concerned folks out there, but what they came up with wasn’t all that pleasant.”

Event organizers armed participants with custom-built utility belts with mesh bags for trash storage. The paddlers used the top of their paddles to pick up plastic bottles and bags, cans, fishing nets and even lumber along the four-mile route.

“The belts worked beautifully,” chuckles Miller, “and I was really impressed. The only trouble was the guys who picked up the lumber had to drag it for several miles.”


 

“We want to make the point that the ocean is not a dumping ground, and we are focusing on this bay because it’s a treasure that is in trouble and needs our kokua,” says Alika Winter, Malama Maunalua Makai Watch coordinator.

Miller says the trash in Maunalua Bay comes from many sources, including storm drains that send sediment and pollutants into the ocean. But most of what was picked up by paddlers was trash produced by humans, including plastic cups and even toys. After nearly three hours of gathering, participants spread out their opala at Waialae Beach. Organizers believe it covered more than 80 square feet.

“It’s definitely from us, definitely land-based pollution,” says Miller. “Most of it was primarily plastics, I’m guessing we had maybe 50 pounds total, and you can imagine how much plastic it takes to make up that kind of weight.”

Fish and marine life are harmed by the pollutants, which contribute to the growth of acres of invasive alien algae.

But plastic is the real culprit in the ocean. One plastic bag can wreak havoc on a green sea turtle, a Hawaiian monk seal, even coral. The manmade product is responsible for many marine life deaths every year.

“There’s so much plastic out there, and that’s just the stuff that was floating. That’s not counting what sits on the bottom of the ocean,” says Miller. “Plastic is with us forever, and that’s distressing.”

Miller says paddlers also grabbed aluminum cans, plastic bottles and “too many cigarette butts” - again, all of it is human-based.

“The bay is in critical condition, like a patient, but with rehabilitation it can be saved,” says Tegan Hammond, Malama Maunalua volunteer and event coordinator. “The same could be said for many other bays across the state.”


Miller says the mission of Malama Maunalua is to conserve and restore the bay. She says efforts like this help improve water quality, which allows for the return of healthy coral reefs and other ecosystems. She hopes other communities can do the same for their ocean playgrounds.

“We sure hope so; it’s one way to enjoy the environment and have a good time. It is our kuleana and it’s so easy to do.”

Event organizers say they are ready to go fishing again, if necessary.

“This is something we’d repeat - we don’t want to, because that means we’re not taking care of our environment, but we can and we will,” says Miller. “This is a great way to raise awareness, and we got healthy feedback from those who participated. We look forward to doing it again.”

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