The Hawaiian people’s culture and way of life has always revolved around the ocean. Fish were a large portion of their meat intake, so ancient Hawaiians were very skilled with nets and learning various tactics on how to fish. Surfing was also a way of life for the ancient Hawaiians. This was not a recreational activity to them, but more so of an art and a spiritual ceremony they embarked on. They would pray to their gods to protect them and give them strength when out on the ocean, and to aid them in a good surf. As of today, surfing has become a sought activity for people all around the world to take part of in Hawaii. The oceans and beaches draw tourists in, producing over $14 billion annually to the state of Hawaii. However, with much tourism coming to the islands it is also producing a lot of trash. Pollution is now contaminating all of Hawaii, and destroying the native Hawaiian’s way of life.
Annual Trash Census
Pollution has been a major concern worldwide for a long time. As of now, it is threatening our oceans and adding toxicity to what we love from the Pacific Islands as a whole. The pollutants that are damaging Hawaii, as well as the rest of the Pacific are; chemical waste, runoff from agricultural waste, household waste products, sewage spills and dumping, industrial waste, and windblown pollution. Hawaii is now having to put warning signs along the beaches to warn people about chemical and industrial waste that has polluted sectors of oceans and inlets.
According to statewide reports, there is an average of 15 to 20 tons of trash that build up on the Hawaiian beaches each year. This equates to 30,000 – 40,000 pounds of trash. Despite conservation and cleanup methods, this is a continuous problem for the state of Hawaii. Over 160 tons (which is 320,000 pounds) of garbage has been removed within the past 10 years from the beaches of Hawaii. Rain water is consistently washing pollutants from the inner parts of Hawaii’s mountains and hillsides into the ocean, adding to the amount of waste going into the ocean.
Plastics Are Becoming a Huge Problem
Plastics are one of the highest concerns pertaining to our ocean. The average American will throw out approximately 185 pounds of plastic material each year. In addition to this, hundreds of thousands of pounds of plastics are being dumped into the ocean annually by waste disposal companies. This is especially bad in the Pacific, where all of the plastics begin forming clusters and move to the island’s estuaries and beaches. 6o% to 80% of all reported oceanic garbage consists of plastics, which takes the longest to break down out of any other sediment waste. The plastics in the ocean around Hawaii outweighs the algal bloom in the region 6 to 1. This is a significant amount of plastic in observation since algae covers much of the oceanic floor and rocks.
Naturally, if this amount of trash is going into the ocean surrounding Hawaii, then it is also impacting the sea life as well. Trash is being ingested by animals all around Hawaii, along with the rest of the Pacific. Most of this consumption is involuntary, with some animals mistaking the trash as a food source. Sea turtles are mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish, and it is causing them to suffocate since it gets caught in their throats. Other animals such as birds and whales are mistaking the plastics for food, which builds up in their stomachs and cannot be broken down. The microscopic particles of plastics are also getting stuck into the fish’s gills. This is causing each species of wildlife to die internally. One of the most concerning animals to die by this effect is the Honu, or green sea turtle, which is an endangered species of Hawaii. Some of the waste is causing tumors on the body and organs, seen in the picture provided below. The outbreak of various diseases and tumors are caused by the chemical waste and other runoff toxins being poured into the ocean around Hawaii.
Conservation groups have been put in motion over a decade ago to help prevent the pollution and waste in Hawaii. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration has been trying to clean the entirety of the Hawaiian islands for the past 13 years, and has been proven to be a struggle to do. There is also the Polluted Runoff Control Program, which is another active cleanup organization. Their employees are a mix of volunteers and active workers who have been assisted with federal aid. This group has successfully removed over 3,000 tons (6 million pounds) of sediment from Hawaii’s oceans and beaches last year alone. However, this is an ongoing battle that may never be completely won, regardless of conservation efforts.
Potential Outcomes on Hawaii’s Future
Pollution will potentially diminish the paradise we know as Hawaii all together. If conservation tactics are not put into place, then a plethora of issues will being to take shape and cause a domino effect. Firstly, the plastics and toxic wastes dumped into the ocean will pollute the diving areas in such a way that fish, coral and other local wildlife will not be able to survive here any longer. They will either try to find a new home or die out all together. Secondly, the beaches will become more overrun with trash and chemical waste than it already is. The beaches could look like a dumping ground from the runoff and trash buildup. This will drive tourism away from the islands, which in turn will destroy a large chunk of the annual revenue of Hawaii. Lastly, if efforts are still not put in action then we will begin to see endangered species such as the green sea turtle die off as well as the entirety of Hawaii looking like a landfill.