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State Launches Hotline to Report Ghost Fishing Nets, Marine Debris

AP Photo/Caleb Jones

Hawaii has a new hotline to report ghost fishing nets, derelict gear and other plastic debris that washes ashore across the Hawaiian archipelago.

In a statement Thursday, state officials announced the new hotline, which uses phrasing from the Hawaii Pidgin language in the number: 833-4-Da-Nets.

State wildlife officials partnered with environmental groups to create the hotline so people can report marine debris that can then be quickly removed.

As they drift throughout the ocean, ghost nets and other fishing line continue to catch fish, sometimes entangling Hawaii's humpback whales, sea turtles, endangered Hawaiian monk seals and seabirds.

“The idea is to have people call in hazardous nets immediately," Kristen Kelly of Hawaii's Division of Aquatic Resources Protected Species Program said in the statement. “We can mount a rapid response to remove these nets from our shorelines as quickly as possible and before they drift back into the open ocean.”

The Division of Aquatic Resources worked with the non-profit organizations Sustainable Coastlines on Oahu; Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute; Surfrider Foundation on Kauai; and the Hawaii Wildlife Fund on the Big Island.

State officials said many of the ghost nets will be taken to Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research, which is working on a study to source derelict gear in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries it originally came from.

“We rely on people to report large marine debris sightings so that we can obtain samples for this important research study. The hotline is a huge help,” said Center for Marine Debris Research co-director Jennifer Lynch.

Ghost nets foul oceans throughout the world, but the Hawaiian Islands — with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the east and another gyre of floating trash to the west — are an epicenter for marine waste.

A recent expedition to the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands brought back nearly 50 tons of nets and other plastics.

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