32 tons of debris from Hawaii reefs

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On a three-week mission to Maro Reef, Kure and Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Army 7th Engineer Dive Team pulled more than 32 metric tons of debris off coral reefs.

The debris, primarily fishing nets, was brought back to Honolulu Sunday and put on display yesterday morning at the Coast Guard station on Sand Island.

“It was a great effort by all the people involved,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Jeffrey Randall, commanding officer of the Walnut, a buoy tender that conducted the mission.

Randall said NOAA mapped the sites to be cleared, Army divers bagged the trash and the 225-foot Walnut provided the heavy crane for lifting the debris and deck space for containers in which the debris was stored.

The trash will be taken to Schnitzer Steel Corporation, which will shred the debris. It will then be burned and converted into energy by Hawaiian Electric Co. at its co-generation plant.

Randall said the trip was an eye-opening experience for new members of the Walnut’s crew.

He said he has seen how much the fish population has grown since the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands were declared a national monument. Helping protect that environment, he said, is very rewarding