Marine Debris

Marine debris is any human-created waste that has entered the marine environment. Most of the debris comes from land-based sources, occurring as easily as someone littering a cigarette butt or soda can. A large and disturbing amount of marine debris is comprised of plastics and other materials that resist natural degradation. Debris in our oceans kills and injures wildlife, spreads invasive species, leaches pollutants, and endangers human health. Our conservation commitment includes monitoring, collecting and reporting marine debris found in our oceans, as well as helping to keep Maui’s beaches and parks tobacco-free.

Pacific Whale Foundation researchers began their marine debris research in 2013, documenting and removing debris from the leeward waters of Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai and Molokai. In 2015, we piloted a citizen science program to enhance public involvement in the monitoring and removal of debris from our beaches and to help raise awareness. Our partners in this effort include local community groups, schools, corporate sponsors, and Volunteers on Vacation program participants.

Today, with the help of the public, we have removed and documented over 50,000 pieces of marine debris. Marine Debris Photo Catalog.

Images of marine debris found in the field

“You can participate in our Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program as a citizen scientist. Simply pick up your supplies (recycled grain bag and a datasheet) at Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ocean Store in Lahaina or Maalaea, or at other participating retailers, and then head out to clean up any part of Maui’s coastline, or your favorite coastline back home. Be sure to complete and return your datasheet to help contribute to our marine debris database which will be used to guide mitigation and prevention measures in Maui County”.

You can also print our data sheet HERE and use your own bag!

  • Enter Your Marine Debris Data Here

    Marine Debris Monitoring Program

    Mahalo for participating in our citizen science coastal marine debris monitoring program. Please complete this data form (front and back) and return to a Pacific Whale Foundation retail location in Lahaina or Ma’alaea to redeem your free gift. You can also return this data sheet digitally by taking a picture of the front and back and emailing it to [email protected] The information collected will be used by our Research department to determine trends and sources of specific marine debris. We thank you for supporting our mission to protect the ocean through science and advocacy and to inspire environmental stewardship.
    You can also print our data sheet HERE and use your own bag!.

    Safety Tips
    1. Wear gloves
    2. Be careful with sharp objects
    3. Stay out of dunes
    4. Watch out for wildlife
    5. Don't lift heavy objects
    6. Stay clear of large drums

    Items Collected
    It may be easiest to assign one person as recorder and the other(s) as cleaners. Tally marks are helpful for keeping track of items collected. Please total your tally marks and enter them into the boxes below.

    Entangled Animals
    Please enter Animal/Species, if they are Alive/Released or Dead, Type of Debris causing entanglement.

  • 2018 Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program Results

  • 2018 Microplastics Monitoring Cruise Results

  • 2019 Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program Results

  • 2019 Microplastics Monitoring Cruise Results



Our thoughts go out to all that are being impacted by COVID-19. With a team dedicated to our response to this pandemic, we are meeting regularly to ensure the continuation of programs and services that allow our mission work to continue.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s leadership team is closely monitoring updates from the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization regarding COVID-19. We will continue to seek guidance from these agencies, public health officials and government agencies on an ongoing basis.

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