Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Marine Debris Removal Continues in Kodiak Archipelago

More than a quarter- century after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, oil on the shores of Shuyak Island in the Kodiak archipelago has been replaced by marine debris, prompting a long-term cleanup project set to conclude in September of 2017.

With a grant from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, the Island Trails Network in Kodiak has been leading the two-year effort to remove marine debris from this remote island in the western Gulf of Alaska.

The ITN has assembled a team of 100 volunteers and trained crew to reach its goal of removing some 40,000 pounds of marine debris from Shuyak Island, an area that offers critical habitat for numerous species of fish, birds and marine mammals. A large amount of marine debris accumulates due to strong currents and high winds.

Following aerial surveys that identified numerous medium to large debris items and long stretches of high marine debris accumulation, specific areas of Shuyak Island were identified as high priority targets for removal of debris and selected as the focus of this project.

NOAA notes in its December newsletter on the Marine Debris Program that overall the ITN plans to clean up 60 miles of shoreline on Shuyak Island.

Because of the rugged terrain and active surf, debris can often be hard to reach and harder to remove. Sea kayaks are used to deploy qualified volunteers from around the world. They work in two-week shifts over an eight-week period, paddling to target areas and removing marine debris, collecting it in super-sacks and piling it at more accessible locations.

Later the collected super-sacks are loaded onto a large vessel for transport back to Kodiak, where the debris is sorted and later transported for disposal.

Following the field season, the crew, additional community volunteers and student groups analyze and sort the removed debris to determine its composition and quantity. The information is then documented in photographs videos and displays for use in local, statewide and national education and outreach on the impacts of marine debris, NOAA officials said.

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