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Threats to the Marine Environment

Many cultures have treated bodies of water as convenient repositories for trash, "bottomless" sources of food and natural resources, or something to be dredged, filled, or drained when deemed necessary.  Although we know better in these environmentally-aware times, misuse continues around the world, while areas with improving attitudes and practices will remain scarred for years to come.  Here are a few examples human-induced impacts upon coral reefs observed around the Pacific.


Trash dumped in our oceans & beaches

North Pacific Garbage Patch


Floating Trash, Hanauma Bay, Oahu

Floating Debris, Hanauma Bay, Oahu

Plastics, Kaloko, Oahu


Plastics & Glass, Midway Atoll, NWHI


Discarded Metal, Faga'alu, American Samoa

Burnt Trash, Kaena Point, Oahu


Shopping Bag, Pago Pago, American Samoa



Beer Cans, Pago Pago, American Samoa


Diaper on Coral, Faga'alu, American Samoa 

Broken Glass, Diamond Head, Oahu


Beer Can, Honokohau, Hawaii, 40 feet




Makua, Oahu


Kahuku Point, Oahu

Fabric & silt on coral, Haleiwa, Oahu

Marine debris, mainly plastic, accumulates as drift lines in the open ocean, bays and harbors, and beaches.  This is a common sight in Hanauma Bay at the 'Witches' Brew', where winds and waves accumulate trash against the sea cliffs.
The beaches and reefs of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands receive the lion's share of marine debris due to prevailing winds and currents in the North Pacific.  Employees of various government agencies and volunteers remove hundreds of tons of discarded fishing gear (nets, rope and fishing line) from coral reefs, in addition to every conceivable type of trash off these formerly pristine islands inhabited by the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal and Green Sea Turtle.  
The pre-industrialized world disposed of trash easily since natural products were biodegradable.  The rapid spread of a  westernized lifestyle to traditional cultures has many drawbacks including waste-disposal.  For example, banana leaves and gourds used with meals were easily discarded.  The plastic and aluminum replacements are still discarded in the same manner.