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Autochthonous Hawai'i

Niuhi and marine debris original

Niuhi and marine debris original

Regular price $175.00 USD
Regular price Sale price $175.00 USD
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Original 5.5"x7.25" illustration.

Marine debris, particularly fishing nets and other fishing industry waste, is a deadly threat to much of Hawaii’s marine life.

In the Main Hawaiian Islands, many of us do not come into contact with the extent of this pollution. In Hawai’i, ghost nets and other fishing waste predominantly affect Papahānaumokuākea (the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands/NWHI), and when they do wash ashore on the main islands, there is a quicker response to cleaning it up. In the NWHI clean-up efforts are logistically more difficult due to remote settings, limited access, and cost of operations.

Studies now point toward fishing waste generally making up the majority of plastics in the ocean. A 2022 study estimates that 75%-86% of plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are from industrial fishing. Findings from other regions of the world’s oceans echo these studies, with most implicating fishing waste as either the top or one of the top contributors of ocean plastics. There’s an estimated 100 million pounds of plastic pollution entering the ocean annually from industrial fishing; in Papahānaumokuākea alone, over 115,000lbs drifts in annually.

Ghost nets are no accident: intentional discarding of netting and other gear may actually be more common than accidental losses. Once a net is discarded, it continues to fulfill its purpose—that is, catching and killing marine life. Since these nets and other things are typically plastic, they do not biodegrade. Nets are not the only issue, of course, as fish hooks, eel traps, FADs, and other material can easily kill wildlife and destroy habitat.

The easiest way to not contribute to this critical issue is to avoid it at the source. Not buying from industrial fishing operations, which are responsible for most consumed fish and much more environmental atrocities than solely marine debris—is a daily choice we can make. Supporting causes that target marine debris and sharing knowledge about these issues are also vital.

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