Divers remove nearly 50 tons of debris from coral reefs

Nearly 50 tons of debris have been removed from the marine ecosystem in Hawaii. The last pieces of debris were collected last week when freedivers from the Huawei-based nonprofit PapahÄ naumokuÄ kea Marine Debris Project completed their month-long mission. Among the debris brought ashore was 43 tons of “ghost netting” from a single coral reef.

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The Mission Marine Debris Project (PMDP) is aimed at collecting debris from remote uninhabited islands far off the coast of Hawaii. The 43-ton ghost net was recovered from KamokuokamohoaliÊ (translated to “island of the shark god”) or Maro Reef. The island is part of a series of remote islands that serve as one of the largest marine ecosystems in the world.

Related: Artificial coral reefs help marine life and biodiversity

The coral reef is located in a very shallow lagoon in the open sea. It is only 10 feet below the surface of the water and more than 800 miles from Honolulu. The shallow reefs are key to the marine ecosystem as they support a variety of species including monk seals, sea turtles, sharks, rays and thousands of other fish species found only in Hawaii. In addition to the rich marine life, the reef is also one of the most diverse in Hawaii, thanks to its 37 species of coral.

The benefits of coral reefs are far, far more than just protecting marine life. While few people tend to appreciate their value, coral reefs are key to protecting islands and the mainland from strong waves and storms. In the wake of climate change and extreme weather patterns, protecting coral reefs is even more important.

As the world struggles with excess carbon dioxide, coral reefs are a good storage site for excess carbon. The algae inside the reefs can store huge amounts of carbon dioxide, which they convert into food and energy. But if the corals die, the carbon is released back into the atmosphere.

The officials behind the exercise say that when plastic and nets get stuck in the corals, they can lead to the death of the coral colonies, a situation that not only affects the marine ecosystem but also affects human life. The nets are even more dangerous because they can suffocate even some of the largest marine mammals. In one area, the divers found a single net covering over 20 feet of the coral reef.

Via Yahoo!

Lead image via Pexels

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