LIHU‘E — The Surfrider Foundation of Kaua‘i landed a $25,000 grant to help clean up Japanese tsunami debris washing up on Kaua‘i’s shorelines.
The Kaua‘i organization topped the list of six state nonprofits that received a portion of $100,000 in grants for marine debris removal on Kaua‘i, Maui, Hawai‘i and O‘ahu, according to the state Department of Health.
“We picked Kaua‘i Surfrider because they’ve done a lot of similar work in the past and they have a good reputation,” said Laura McIntyre, manager of the DOH’s Environmental Planning Office.
Carl Berg, vice-chairman of Kaua‘i Surfrider, said the money will be used to fund a pair of fellowships for students at Kaua‘i Community College — one to coordinate beach cleanups and net patrols, the other for tsunami debris monitoring.
“We are going to be advertising these fellowships once we get the money (or) notice to proceed,” he said.
Berg said one of Surfrider Kaua‘i’s main concerns is getting the debris off the beach in a timely fashion so it does not wash back out to sea.
“Surfrider sees the marine debris not just as unsightly stuff on the beach, but a real problem with entanglement of our whales, turtles and seals,” he said. “All of these animals get tied up in the nets and ropes.”
The materials also pose a threat to Kaua‘i’s coral reefs and swimmers.
“What we’re really trying to do is get everyone on this island to pick up nets and pick up garbage and get it off our beach,” Berg said. “We really want everyone in the community to help out.”
Starting in February, Berg said he began to see a large spike in the amount of tsunami-related debris, including buoys, pieces of high-density foam, fishing nets, refrigerators and a piece of floating dock.
“We’re getting bigger stuff … stuff that’s now drifted for two years,” he said.
With the arrival of the Japanese debris, Berg said Surfrider took the opportunity to further engage the local community and encourage people to help out.
“We’re trying to really increase public awareness of the marine debris problem,” Berg said. “The tsunami debris is just part of that.”
Although she could not disclose the date, McIntyre said the funds will be made available once it goes through the contracting process.
In addition to the fellowships, funds will be used for disposal fees at the landfill and to rent a pickup truck to haul debris away from the beach, according to Berg.
Gary Gill, deputy director of the DOH Environmental Health Administration, said the six grants complement ongoing efforts by community groups that are already working to address marine debris including debris originating from the tsunami that devastated Japan in March 2011.
“For years Hawai‘i has depended on volunteers to keep marine debris off our beaches,” he said. “Today, we are providing a little support for the very big job that they do.”
The selected projects will help reduce the impacts of marine debris from alien species, marine life entanglement, economic costs and human health and safety, according to a news release. Other organization to receive a portion of the funding include Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, $20,000; Recycle Hawai‘i, $20,000; Surfrider O‘ahu, $13,000; Kupu, $11,000; and Sustainable Coastlines, $11,000.
The funds, which will be administered by the DOH, were provided by matching $50,000 grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program and the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Kaua‘i Surfrider’s next scheduled beach cleanup will begin at 9 a.m. May 11 at Donkey Beach. Volunteers are asked to meet at the Kealia Kai trail access parking lot.
Those who spot large fishing nets or other marine debris are asked to contact Barbarah Wiedner of Surfrider Kaua‘i at 635-2593.