NOAA to Remove Derelict Fishing Gear From Midway Islands Shores

Photo: Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project.

Officials with the NOAA Marine Debris Program say that the program’s expected to soon complete a mission to Midway Atoll, also known as Kuaihelani, to clean up derelict fishing gear and other debris from the shoreline.

The plan, announced May 2, is supported through a five-year grant to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), using $5.8 million in funds provided by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

This 1,350-mile stretch of small, uninhabited atolls, reefs and shoals is home to unique wildlife and incredible historical sites.

The atoll is also known as Kuaihelani, which means “the backbone of heaven,” and describes a mythical floating island in the sky, possibly originating from the large lagoons that reflect the sky.

Despite their significance and remote location, the shorelines and monument’s surrounding reefs are plagued by derelict fishing gear, plastics and other marine debris.

It’s estimated that 115,000 pounds of debris wash ashore in the monument each year. The debris comes from around the Pacific and has major impacts on the health of the remote ecosystem.

This funding to NFWF is matched by Marc and Lynne Benioff for a total investment of $12 million over a five-year period. Additional funding for the mission is being provided by the NOAA Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program and the M/V Casitas Trustee Council.