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Nonprofit hauls 70K pounds of marine debris out of Midway

COURTESY PMDP/ANDREW SULLIVAN-HASKINS
                                Operations coordinator Derek Levault removes a derelict fishing net from the shoreline at Midway Atoll.
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COURTESY PMDP/ANDREW SULLIVAN-HASKINS

Operations coordinator Derek Levault removes a derelict fishing net from the shoreline at Midway Atoll.

COURTESY PMDP/ANDREW SULLIVAN-HASKINS
                                The team works to free a large piece of derelict fishing gear from the sand at Midway Atoll.
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Swipe or click to see more

COURTESY PMDP/ANDREW SULLIVAN-HASKINS

The team works to free a large piece of derelict fishing gear from the sand at Midway Atoll.

COURTESY PMDP/ANDREW SULLIVAN-HASKINS
                                Operations coordinator Derek Levault removes a derelict fishing net from the shoreline at Midway Atoll.
COURTESY PMDP/ANDREW SULLIVAN-HASKINS
                                The team works to free a large piece of derelict fishing gear from the sand at Midway Atoll.

A team of divers has once again hauled out an enormous amount of marine debris from Midway Atoll at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

The haul this time? 70,080 pounds.

Most of that weight came from abandoned fishing nets (35,100 pounds), followed by derelict fishing gear such as buoys, floats and other plastic marine debris (32,930 pounds), along with abandoned boats (2,050 pounds).

The Hawaii-based nonprofit Papahanaumokuakea Marine Debris Project regularly deploys a team out to the remote atolls to clean up the trash.

“PMDP came to Kuaihelani (Midway) with the goal of removing 35,000 pounds of marine debris to preemptively protect the wildlife, and I’m proud to say we more than doubled our goal,” said team diver Sydney Luitgaarden in a statement.

In mid-April, the team of 12 divers headed to Midway for a 19-day mission, which is shorter than past journeys. They covered nearly 11 miles of shoreline at Midway, including Eastern, Spit and Sand Islands.

The team targeted debris that potentially posed entanglement or ingestion hazards to wildlife and large plastics from the shorelines.

Midway serves as the nesting grounds to nearly 2 million birds of 19 different species, according to PMDP, including the world’s largest colony of Laysan albatross. Midway is also home to more than 70 endangered Hawaiian monk seals.

The cleanup missions are funded by $5.8 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the form of a 5-year grant to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Philanthropists Marc and Lynne Benioff matched the grant, bringing the total funding to $12 million.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others are also providing additional funding.

Two more marine debris cleanups in the remote isles are planned this year, with the goal of removing another 215,000 pounds.

Most of the debris is incinerated and converted to energy, while the rest is recycled.

Correction: About 70,000 pounds of marine debris was recovered, not tons, as reported in an earlier version of this story.
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