Tracking the sources and sinks of local marine debris in Hawai'i

  • Carson H
  • Lamson M
  • Nakashima D
 et al. 
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Abstract

Plastic pollution has biological, chemical, and physical effects on marine environments and economic effects on coastal communities. These effects are acute on southeastern Hawai'i Island, where volunteers remove 16 metric tons of debris annually from a 15 km coastline. Although the majority is foreign-origin, a portion is locally-generated. We used floating debris-retention booms in two urban waterways to measure the input of debris from Hilo, the island's largest community, and released wooden drifters in nearby coastal waters to track the fate of that debris. In 205 days, 30 kilograms of debris (73.6% plastic) were retained from two watersheds comprising 10.2% of Hilo's developed land area. Of 851 wooden drifters released offshore of Hilo in four events, 23.3% were recovered locally, 1.4% at distant locations, and 6.5% on other islands. Comparisons with modeled surface currents and wind were mixed, indicating the importance of nearshore and tidal dynamics not included in the model. This study demonstrated that local pollutants can be retained nearby, contribute to the island's debris-accumulation area, and quickly contaminate other islands. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Drifters
  • Hawaii
  • Marine debris
  • Ocean models
  • Pathways
  • Plastics
  • Retention booms
  • Sources
  • Waste disposal

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