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KODIAK: Cleaning UpSitkinak Island
10 Region, December 10, 2008
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A collection beach on Sitkinak Island with an accumulation of marine debris.  Photo by Bill Pyle.
A collection beach on Sitkinak Island with an accumulation of marine debris. Photo by Bill Pyle. - Photo Credit: n/a

The Sitkinak Island marine debris clean-up proved to be the most ambitious Island Trails Network (ITN) project to date. A team of nine volunteers flew to this southernmost island in the Kodiak Archipelago armed with trash bags, various hand tools, and containers to collect debris that had washed ashore on this remote island. The job was not without challenges.  The crew worked through sub-freezing temperatures, gale force winds, and frequent hailstorms.   Three members of this crew were Kodiak Refuge employees who had taken leave to participate in this project - Supervisory Wildlife Biologist Bill Pyle, Maintenance Worker Paul Banyas, and Deputy Refuge Manager Mike Getman.

The Island Trails Network is a non-profit corporation established to develop, maintain, and promote sustainable trail systems and wilderness recreation throughout the Kodiak Island Archipelago.  ITN maintains local hiking trails, installs Geoblock paving on eroded ATV trails, and marine debris cleanups.  Previously ITN had received a grant to fly part of the Kodiak Archipelago coastline to identify beaches with significant accumulations of marine debris and one of the worst was on Sitkinak Island. 

Marine debris is any man made object especially plastics that washes ashore.  In Alaska, it’s mainly nets, lines, buoys, and other derelict fishing gear.  It’s not just litter, but also a killer of wildlife too.  Marine mammals and seabirds can get entangled.  Lost fishing gear continues fishing and unintentionally kills fish and other marine life.  Seabirds and marine mammals can mistake colored plastics as food, eat them, which can clog their digestive tracts.

After arriving at an abandoned U.S. Coast Guard airstrip, the crew traveled nine-miles to the worksite, set up tents, and began removing marine debris from five miles of beach.  The marine debris consisted mainly of derelict fishing nets, crab pots, halibut long lines, plastics, bottles with labels in four languages (English, Korean, Japanese, and Russian), an unusual assortment of tires, Pete Johnson’s hard hat (hope Pete’s ok), a couple glass fishing balls, and two Japanese survey stakes.  In all, an estimated 8,000 pounds of debris was collected and bagged.  The debris was placed in large sacks, lashed down, and stored on a beach to be later picked up by a barge.

ITN executive director Andy Schroeder described the project as “…a phenomenal success”.  It also provided additional experience for conducting future remote site projects.  The Kodiak Refuge staff is interested in working with ITN to survey, locate, and clean-up refuge coastlines in similar conditions.


Contact Info: Michael Getman, 907-487-2600, michael_getman@fws.gov



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