Marine Conservation Biology in Hawaii

Day Six (Jan. 23) – Exploring, cleaning and horribly wonderful karaoke
by -- January 23rd, 2011

“No pressure fellow classmates, it’s only the world on our shoulders…”

Some of our gear we used for snorkeling.

Some of our gear we used for snorkeling.

Today was a day filled with exploring, cleaning and horribly wonderful karaoke.   After a delicious breakfast at the Clipper House we mounted our bikes (much to our bottoms’ dismay) and headed to the boat dock to suit up for a wonderful morning of snorkeling.  After squeezing ourselves into our super tight wetsuits and finding flippers, masks and snorkels, John Miller from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was kind enough on his Saturday morning off to take us out to the reef.  Thank you John!!

With a friendly send off from a green turtle, we headed to our destination: “Reef Hotel,” named as such because past military officers had built a platform there to take a boat out to enjoy a few beverages on their time off.  The beauty and amazement of what we see on the island is so immense that we often forget there is a whole other world teaming with life below the water’s surface.  We toughed out the sixty degree water to view the striking colors of the deep.  We saw huge red pencil urchins, needle fish, damselfish, parrotfish, butterfly fish, and sea cucumbers to name a few.

On the boat heading to Reef Hotel to spend the morning snorkeling.

On the boat heading to Reef Hotel to spend the morning snorkeling.

Different fish and coral species we encountered while snorkeling.

Different fish and coral species we encountered while snorkeling.

Though it may sound like it, it’s not all fun and games on the island.  Having this wonderful opportunity to experience Midway, the least we can do is give a little back to this wondrous place.  We spent the afternoon cleaning debris off the beaches of Frigate Point and South Beach to help reduce entanglement possibilities for monk seals and to help reduce the amount of plastic on the beaches.  You may think that an isolated island so far away from “civilization” would have pristine beaches.  Not the case.  We spent about an hour picking up items like derelict fishing gear, plastic toys, laundry baskets, plastic bottle tops, baby stroller wheels, glass bottles (mostly liquor bottles), and we even saw a few cars uncovered by a recent storm.

Hauling large heavy ropes from fishing vessels off the beach to reduce the possibilities of entanglement.

Hauling large heavy ropes from fishing vessels off the beach to reduce the possibilities of entanglement.

With our bags full of debris, we headed to the recycling center to recycle what we could and placed the rest in the trash, away from vulnerable seals and birds.  After we were all sweaty, tired and feeling pretty good about ourselves for doing something to help the local wildlife and ecosystem we had a class discussion on whether what we did was worth it.  The questions asked were whether this golf cart full off trash and debris that we collected made even a dent in the problem of marine debris?  Do we continue to pick the debris up after the fact, or stop it before it reaches our coastlines and oceans?  Where is all this debris coming from?  How do we even start to solve this problem?  These are the types of questions we as Masters students in environmental management are counted on to answer.  No pressure fellow classmates, it’s only the world on our shoulders…

Some of the pile of debris we collected. Yes that is a mop bucket...

Some of the pile of debris we collected. Yes that is a mop bucket...

Even though it’s not all fun and games on the island, we do find ways to enjoy ourselves.  Luckily the local “Chugach Band” was there to sing us into the night.  Dancing, singing and games at the local “All Hands Club” made for a nice way to unwind from the day’s adventure.

The Chugach Band.

The Chugach Band.

3 Comments

  1. Marcia Rao
    Jan 23, 2011

    One of the pictures appears to be of the coral reef you snorkelled over, and it is all gray! Does this mean it is dead or dying? I thought they were very colorful places. I continue to be upset by all the human trash you are finding: the lighters inadvertantly “fed” to baby albatrosses and all the weird beach flotsam. The biggest issue seems to be plastic objects. You’re right–where to begin to stop this? I hope you come up with some ideas. Someone has to.

    • Katie Crane
      Jan 26, 2011

      Marcia- The reef was actually in pretty good condition. Most of what was coming across as gray in the pictures was really an amazing shade of purple. There were of course pieces that had been destroyed from various human activities on the atoll, but what is there is relatively healthy.

  2. Dave Johnston
    Jan 25, 2011

    Ok guys, we usually have an un-official “weirdest piece of debris” contest after a day like this. But a car? Hmmm. This I need to see – can you post a pic?

    Cheers

    Dj

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