It was a dreary morning at Ala Mona Park. Magic Island was almost deserted, like a scene out of Zombie land, the Ferris wheel and other carnival rides spun empty in the drizzle. I was met by a colleague and friend of mine, Gracie Clark. We awkwardly attempted to set up the not so easy “easy up”. A local lady came to our rescue, “ you guys done this before”? She had her kids grab the corners and we all stepped back and up she went. We were so happy to have some shelter, not like we weren’t going to get wet any way. Tim Mann and Tom Fagan met us a bit later. Tim, Gracie and I geared up as Tom got the grill ready.
Our plan was to stay within eyesight of each other, and those of you who have ever swam near Magic Island know that is pretty much arms distance. We slowly made our way down to 15 ft and the treasure hunt began. Slow at first, then it was plastic cup after cup, plastic bags, sunglasses, snorkel gear, oh and a gas tank. Ya know, the kind of items you would expect in a populated beach park. There was a bit of line, and lots of aluminum serving containers. We got so much trash in the fist ½ hour we had to unload and go back for more.
I made two observations that really impacted my experience on this clean up dive. One was the fine silt that ladened everything. It was the softest finest clay mud I have ever felt, and it turned into a cloud of brown smoke when it was disturbed. This silt was colonizing every space in each container, every fold in plastic wrapper and bag. I found beautiful corals that looked like delicate trees, covered in silt. Which brings me to my next observation. The amount of marine life living in this choked environment. The corals were a bright orange and purple once the silt was wooshed off. We were first startled by a green sea turtle swimming slowly in the low viz. Next I found a stripe belly puffer fish, cuddled next to a a coral blanketed in brown algae. There were lots of sea cucumbers filtering the bottom, and these little white nudebranchs with long antennae. All these creatures had found a way to exist in this changed environment, but I imagined how many more creatures could not.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nZuTFNdfwI]
When we came up the beach, the family that helped us earlier wanted to take pictures. One of their little girls and dad watched as we sorted through the different pieces of treasure. The amount of plastic dominated the loot overall. Aluminum cans and dishes came next, with articles of clothing close behind. As we chatted with the family, dad told us about his experiences swimming out to Chinamen”s hat, and filling his dive bag with trash on his way to and from. There isn’t a beach in Hawaii that you can’t find plastic on. It’s because it comes not only from us, but the entire North Pacific Ocean! We are the most isolated Archpelago in the world, and yet we receive trash from Japan all the way to Alaska. Most of the trash we find is made of plastic.
Many of us understand that plastic does not biodegrade, it photo degrades and becomes smaller and smaller. Yet we all are still using it. Your toothbrush, your sun screen, your water bottle, your scotch tape, and slippers are all made of plastic. And it doesn’t go away. If you haven’t already you should visit www.midwayfilm.com and see how our consumption of plastic effects other creatures. This is not intended to be a guilt trip, this is a call to attention. Please open your eyes to your contributions and take responsibility for your own actions and how they impact the world. Remember that we in Hawaii are in the most remote location on earth. Yet someones Reebok shoe in Australia can wash up on the Napali coast. We are all connected. Like a tree has it’s roots, the ocean has it’s streams, the leaves all lead to the same trunk, and each beach is touched by the same ocean. Not everyone has time to do a beach clean up (March 30th Kakaako beach, Surfrider foundation Oahu Chapter), but what if we stop contributing to the trash? Look at your daily life objectively and notice how much plastic you go through. Think about how you can reduce that tomorrow, and the next day and so forth.
Participate in the solution.