Commentary by Andrea Capilla
Pohoiki ( Issac Hale Beach Park) is located on lower Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was one of the only accessible beaches on this side of the island, with a boat ramp, and 3 bays which were favorites to local surfers and bodyboarders. However, one year ago Kilauea Volcano was going on its second month of eruption and the lava flow covered most of the ocean access for lower Puna.
Pohoiki was not lost but changed into a new beautiful black sand beach that stretches as far as the eye can see. Where there was once a bay and a boat ramp, now there is a sandy beach. It is less than one year old and when the road was reopened to access it, the local people were hopeful and happy.
However beautiful black sand and new surf were not the only things that came with this new beach. The lava flow created a point that was not there before. It extended and changed the topography, and with this, the currents and tides now brought more than new waves for the surfers. It brought ghost nets and micro plastic debris.
Locals were happy spending time at the new Pohoiki , but there were a few of us that could see that the plastic pollution problem was concerning. Past the long sandy beach walk, there were massive ghost nets, micro plastics and debris under every rock you could move.
For the moment, there are only 3 of us as Sea Shepherd Volunteers on the Big Island of Hawaii, but we wanted to take action and contribute to Operation Clean Waves.
Brittany Valone, Cory Edging ( Sea Shepherd supporters) and I joined with a local group Wholistic Synergy Hawaii and Surfrider Hilo Chapter to start tackling this issue. We invited the community to join us.
Many people didn’t believe that we would find anything on the newest beach in the world. There were about 15 of us. I brought my 2 boys with me and along with one more family with 3 kids ( ages 9, 5 and 3) spent 2 hours gathering small debris that was right on the coastline. A group of adults (parents included) stayed with this group. And the rest of us tried tackling this massive ghost net. After 3 hours, we took out 800 lbs. (mostly ghost nets) of debris. The local lifeguards helped us by hauling the debris with their ATV, but we had to leave behind what was probably another 200 lbs. of ghost net that was trapped between heavy rock’s that we couldn’t move. We hope to do a monthly cleanup and want to try to get the community more involved.
I am a mother of 3 homeschooled youngsters. We live off the grid in the Puna side. As a Sea Shepherd supporter, I knew I had to help out and focus on marine debris and ocean conservancy awareness to educate future generations. We have gone to multiple beach clean ups, including the famous Kamilo point Trash beach, a very
remote area that is hard to access. Kamilo has been polluted for years, however it is sad to see that this fresh new beach could suffer a similar fate if we don’t help out now. I have gone to local farmers markets, and festivals to spread the word of the work that Sea Shepherd does. This year we got invited again to a famous local festival to have a booth and help out with the kids in the area. We definitely want to show the spirit of Aloha and be here for the community and the ocean and setting up regular beach clean ups is a good place to start.