By: Peter Murphy
for the NOAA Marine Debris Program
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON — a football-field sized barge carrying nearly 3,400 super-sacks of marine debris from remote and rugged beaches from Alaska and British Columbia docked at the Waste Management facility in Seattle, Washington, Thursday morning.
The barge traveled thousands of miles from Seattle up to Alaska before its return. Its arrival this week marked the culmination of debris removal efforts across the marine debris community in Alaska for the past several years, coordinated by Gulf of Alaska Keeper and funded in large part by a generous goodwill gift from the Government of Japan administered by NOAA and the State of Alaska.
A diverse team including participants from the National Park Service, non-profit organizations, professional crews, and volunteers from across the state collaborated to collect the debris. The debris, which was placed into large plastic bags called super-sacks, or tied into bundles, included everything from nets, lines and buoys to consumer plastics and different kinds of foam, including a significant amount of Japan tsunami marine debris. Over the course of the three weeks, from the barge’s first pickup to its arrival in Seattle, helicopters made 1,154 trips from shore to the boat, delivering enough debris to fill nearly 40 rail cars to the brim.
The marine debris issue in Alaska provides unique challenges. It takes innovation and perseverance from the community that works there to meet those challenges and address the issue. That community includes Gulf of Alaska Keeper, who has been working on this issue for years and was the driving force behind this project, and many others, from Craig and Sitka in Southeast Alaska, all the way to the Arctic, where the National Park Service and communities are working to assess and remove debris.
As we recognize the accomplishment of the barge/airlift project, we also look forward to sharing more of these stories from the marine debris community in Alaska and how they are tackling the issue in different and innovative ways in and through their own communities.