St. Paul Marine Debris Cleanup | Read the post ->


For 2016, we are working with locals in Bering Sea communities to restore critical habitats by the removal of marine debris.   Funded by NOAA Award NA15NMF4630067, the Bering Sea crews are working in the following areas: Native Village of Nikolski, Native Village of Port Heiden, St Lawrence Island, and St. George Island.

St George Island Cleanup Photos

photos provided by Melanie Prokopiof

This year the Sitka Sound Science Center has two separate Marine Debris projects ongoing: a grant from the Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation (formerly MCAF) to focus on tsunami debris cleanup of the Kruzof Island area and a 3 year project with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to both remove marine debris created by the Tohoku earthquake and work with community partners on marine debris projects.

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2015 Projects

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Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation Project

The AMSF has funded the SSSC for 10 days of field work to catalog and remove marine debris from the Kruzof Island area this summer. We have spent 10 days in the field and removed over 11,000 pounds of debris so far this season. Much of this debris was related to the tsunami created by the Tohoku earthquake and included large Styrofoam and hard plastic floats associated with the aquaculture industry in Japan. Other debris encountered included portions of high-seas drift gillnets (illegal in Alaska) and trawl nets, likely from the western Gulf of Alaska, beverage bottles, 50 gallon containers, Japanese kerosene containers, and items for spilled cargo containers. Styrofoam creates a true environmental hazard as it breaks down on the beach. Bears and other wildlife tear it apart and it degrades in the weather leaving small bits in the grass, ocean, and beach where it can be consumed by birds and fish. Plastics and Styrofoam take up room in the stomach but provide no nutritional value and wildlife can starve to death although they feel full. We are also looking carefully at debris for invasive species that may have survived the ocean crossing. We found barnacle shells from a Japanese species embedded in an aquaculture float at Yamani Cove. The animals were no longer inhabiting the shells.

NOAA Tsunami Debris Coastal Community Cleanup

The SSSC is excited to announce the award of NOAA Grant NA13NMF4630028 – The Tsunami Debris Coastal Community Cleanup (TDCCC) project will foster collaboration among diverse grass roots and community-based entities to remove high priority, non re-accumulating tsunami marine debris on NOAA trust habitat of the Eastern Gulf of Alaska. It will establish relevant educational outreach program to limit future locally derived debris and create social benefits for Sitkans and their community through innovative outreach and education while fostering awareness of the effects of marine debris to thousands of visitors to Alaska. Specifically, the TDCCC project will use an experienced fishing vessel crew to remove tsunami debris and derelict fishing gear from coastal habitat in the West Chichagof- Yakobi and Southern Baranof Wilderness areas. Additionally, Pacific High School, a high school serving rural and Alaska youth, will use this marine debris project to stage a school orientation and debris cleanup and use the results of that work to implement lesson planning incorporating marine debris and its effects in science, math, culture and social studies classes. The school will be fully invested in this work and returning to the beach for orientation and cleanup will strengthen this investment as well as contribute to on the grounds cleanup of debris. Sitka Middle School students will attend Camp Coastal Cleanup for a week during the summer of 2014, spending a full day removing tsunami debris from Tongass Forest beaches and learning about pollution, plastics, natural resources, oceanography, and creating an educational exhibit for display at the SSSC visitors center. Our Marine Debris Coordinator, Margot O’Connell, will work with Pacific High Students to produce and submit a scientific poster for presentation at the Alaska Forum on the Environment in Anchorage in 2014 and at Sitka WhaleFest. Overall, about 200 acres will be cleaned of marine debris. Outreach and education efforts are anticipated to reach hundreds of fishermen through ALFA website and newsletters, 10,000 visitors and 1,300 students through the Sitka Sound Science Center displays, and the 1,800 people attending the Alaska Forum on the Environment.


October 2014:
This has been an amazing week for the Sitka Sound Science Center marine debris crew! This week marked the first time that the SSSC and the US Coast Guard Air Station Sitka teamed up on a marine debris removal mission. We rallied our awesome staff here at SSSC for a day-long cleanup trip to Sea Lion Cove on Kruzof Island. Our hardworking staff, along with volunteers from the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, SIRF Fellow Mike Lannoo and visitors Susan Lannoo and Andy Baker hopped on board the Allen Marine vessel Anastasia on Wednesday morning. We were dropped us off at the trailhead at Kalinin Bay. In spite of pouring rain, the hike over was beautiful. When we arrived on the beach at Sea Lion Cove, we got to work bagging up all of the debris that we could find, and then loading those bags into our supersacks. It was one of those glorious fall days when we got to experience all types of weather in one day (rain, wind, hail, and then, finally, sunshine). Once all of the debris was bagged up, it was time to call in the cavalry. The US Coast Guard helicopter arrived, landed on the beach, and the amazing crew got to work loading up a net full of debris to fly back to Sitka. It took them two trips to remove all of the debris we collected. This is a great partnership, and we would like to give our sincerest thanks to the good folks at the Coast Guard who made it possible. Particularly, we would like to thank the crew (LT Adam Whalen, Lt Michael Carroll, AET1 Seth Cooley, and AMT1 Dennis Dewinter) who flew the cleanup “mission,” as well as LCDR William R. Walker, CRD Mark Vislay, and CDR Chip Lewin of Air Station Sitka who worked with us over the past few months to make this partnership a reality. We can’t thank them enough and look forward to working with them again soon. We removed 1,540 pounds of debris from Sea Lion Cove, and we didn’t even have to carry any with us on the hike back! And the icing on the cake? We watched a pod of killer whales feeding on our return to Sitka.

September 2014:
This week was the second annual NOAA-funded beach cleanup of Biorka Island with the students and staff at Pacific High School. This has been an amazing partnership, and the students did a great job again this year. Using the NOAA Shorezone Survey protocols, they catalogued and removed every piece of debris larger than a bottle cap. The kids got great practice in doing real science and removed 500 pounds of debris from the beach. Big thanks to Pacific High School and NOAA for making this great opportunity possible!

July  2014:

The Sitka Sound Science Center marine debris crew took advantage of the gorgeous, seventy degree weather last week to continue our cleanup efforts on Kruzof Island. On the suggestion of our aquarium manager Taylor White, we took a four-person crew and cleaned the beach around the USFS cabin at Brent’s Beach. As many of you know, this is a popular destination for campers and kayakers. As such, in addition to the debris that has washed ashore, we also removed quite a bit of what we call “local” debris; that is, debris lost or forgotten by visitors. In total, we removed 500 pounds of garbage from the shoreline surrounding the cabin. However, it wasn’t all hard work. Sitkans know to take advantage of the weather whenever the sun is out, and after we had stockpiled all of the debris, we rewarded ourselves by lounging on the sand and swinging on the rope swings while waiting for the high tide. We had a blast cleaning and playing in the sun, and we’d like to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to be responsible stewards of places like Brent’s Beach so that they stay clean and enjoyable for generations to come. Next time you go camping, be aware of your trash. Pack it out with you, and make sure that it is securely stowed on the boat. And always follow the old adage: “Pack out more than what you pack in.”

June 2014: 
This Marine Debris Cleanup Project at the Sitka Sound Science Center is well underway, and we have had a busy summer so far! We’ve been working with funding from the Government of Japan to clean tsunami debris off of Kruzof Island, a huge undertaking to say the least. With the help of volunteers and Science Center staff, the F/V Cherokee and the Esther G II have made a big dent in the amount of debris on these beautiful beaches. While working around Neva Bay (the supposed site of the sinking of the Neva) we kept our eyes peeled for gold bars, but alas, all we found was debris. However, among all of the trash we found a life jacket, property of the Sheldon Jackson Hatchery. Just another reminder that marine debris comes from everywhere in the world, including right in our backyard! In addition to our work on Kruzof, we have been working with NOAA funding to clean the beaches of Southern Baranof and the West Chichagof-Yakobi wilderness area. Between these two projects we have removed 5 tons of debris from beaches around Sitka so far this summer, and we’re not done yet! Sitka is an amazing community, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for your support and encouragement as we work on this important project. We are constantly receiving tips on where to find debris and thanks from community members, which makes our work so much more effective and enjoyable. Stay tuned for more updates from the Marine Debris crew!


April  2014:
Today we’re celebrating Earth Day at the Sitka Sound Science Center, and what better way to celebrate than by kicking off this year’s marine debris cleanup project?   Our current work is funded by NOAA, and will focus on cleaning up the beaches of the South Baranof and West Chichagof Wilderness Areas. As it happens, this year is also the 50th anniversary of the signing into law of the Wilderness Act of 1964, which created the legal definition of wilderness in the United States and protected 9.1 million acres of federal land. To quote the act: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Our marine debris crew is excited to celebrate this anniversary by working hard to visit and keep these Wildernesses wild.  We can’t wait to get started. Stay tuned for updates from the marine debris coordinator, and happy Earth Day!