My heart is breaking as I survey the amount of marine debris piling up on Midway. Please post your thoughts: What do you think should be done to decrease the amount of marine debris that is put into the ocean each year? How do you recommend cleaning up the massive quantities of garbage that have been circulating in the Pacific Ocean for decades?
During March Madness last year my dad confided in me after a gut wrenching Jayhawk defeat, “Every time Kansas loses, my heart completely breaks.” Dad, you asked why I wanted to take this Marine Conservation Biology class to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and I finally have an answer for you (in addition to my initial reasoning of having a ‘travel-bug’ that only a trip to a tropical destination could cure): The ocean is my Kansas, and my heart is breaking. I, along with the other students in this class, am in Hawaii because I know that by gaining hands-on knowledge of fragile marine ecosystems from high caliber professors, field researchers, refuge managers, and local experts, I can (and feel morally obligated to) make a difference in how humans treat our oceans. But a small class from Duke can’t conquer environmental problems on its own. We need help: from friends, family, colleagues, and strangers who stumble upon this blog.
Today we finished the beach cleanup that we initiated on Day 4. We walked a small stretch of beach on the south end of Sand Island and filled more than 20 additional trash bags with glass and plastic bottles, toothbrushes, combs, toys, shoes, fishing nets and floats, laundry baskets, and other various pieces of marine debris.
During the bicycle ride to the beach, we removed the stomach contents from six albatross carcasses for examination. The causes of death are uncertain, but one can’t help but speculate about the negative effects that plastic and other types of marine debris have on the health of seabirds and other marine species. One albatross had more than 120 pieces of trash in its stomach, including four bottle tops, a whole cigarette lighter, and a wad of dental floss. Revolting!! When I was a kid my friend swallowed one penny because she thought it was cool and apparently didn’t know any better. She was grounded for a month and her mom called the doctor. Imagine the albatross, innocently consuming bottle caps covered in fish eggs and army figurines floating amongst squid. Birds don’t know any better – but should they be grounded? …
…Off to a rough start today, I know – but trust me when I say that NO day spent on Midway could be anything but amazing. Not all gloom and doom, we got to examine our monk seal and spinner dolphin photo-identification images and watch the beginning stages of an albatross chick hatching from its shell. For me, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument is a spiritual and inspirational place. Like all locations that hold a special place in my heart, I want to see it free from devastating human impacts now and in hundreds of years from now. Everyone is able to contribute something, whether it is time, money, or simply encouragement. I am going to increase my recycling efforts, reduce the amount of waste that I produce by using reusable drink and food containers and grocery bags, encourage the use and production of biodegradable and sustainable products, and write support letters to approve or increase funding for conservation campaigns and research projects, such as a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program at Midway that will study the sources and effects of marine debris. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to travel to this unique and remote island.
I will never forget the gorgeous turquoise waters, bright white sand, splashing spinner dolphins, smiling faces of Midway residents, comical sounds of a million birds chit-chatting day and night, or taco day. Special thanks to Dean Bill Chameides, we wish you were here to experience the beauty and wonder of Midway with us.
Please post your thoughts: What do you think should be done to decrease the amount of marine debris that is put into the ocean each year? How do you recommend cleaning up the massive quantities of garbage that have been circulating in the Pacific Ocean for decades?
Until next time…
Check out this site for the Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge: