Ugly Ocean: NOAA Gathers Tons of Discarded Fishing Gear and Plastic from Northwest Hawaiian Waters

More than half the debris came from Midway Atoll, within the Pacific’s Great Garbage Patch

Hawaiian Marine Debris

Hawaiian Marine Debris

Courtesy NOAA

Last month, I blogged about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The concept surprised me, though through more online reading, I realized that much has been written about the trash that floats in our oceans.

Now comes a report from, an ABC news affiliate in Honolulu, Hawaii, headlined "Scientists collect 55 tons of marine debris from Northwestern Hawaiian Islands". The article states that while scientists have conducted annual cleanups since 1996, tons of debris — more than half of it derelict fishing gear and plastic from Midway Atoll — continue to clog waters of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, a 139,797 square-mile conservation area.

The total amount of debris removed from the region over the years tops 700 metric tons, which equals 1,540,000 pounds! In a quick, unscientific web search, I found several references to help put that amount in perspective:

  • An eastern North Carolina Better Business Bureau reported the shredding of a similar weight of paper documents. The materials filled more than 23,000 vehicles, though the reference doesn't mention the size of vehicle.
  • Boeing says the International Space Station weighs only 1 million pounds.
  • The average American car weighs 4,000 pounds. It would take 385 cars to total the weight of the Hawaiian debris.

My mouth is still agape. It's no longer a debate about whether the vast oceans can be affected by our trash. And while my personal universe might be small, the world's population carries enormous impact — and I am definitely a part of that.