Assessment of Derelict Fishing Net Impacts on Coral Reef Habitats at Midway Atoll – 2008

Assessment and monitoring of coral reef sites around Midway Atoll that are potentially impacted by derelict fishing nets as well as removal efforts to reduce these nets.

Project Abstract

This initiative aimed to assess the impact of derelict nets and the potential impact of removal efforts of those nets to coral reef ecosystems of Midway Atoll by comparing the percent cover of benthic species at different types of site categories: a) nets left on the reef, b) nets removed from the reef and c) a control, without having any net on the reef. These sites were marked permanently, surveyed, photo documented, and resurveyed over time. The field team conducting these surveys were made up of personnel from the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) and CRED, and had team members on each trip who were experienced in both marine debris removal techniques and benthic organism identification.

Overall, most of the coral reefs that were exposed to nets without removal efforts experienced loss of healthy coral tissue over the course of the study, at time leading to coral colony death.  Corals that were exposed to nets that were removed for the study period exhibited mixed results in terms of recovery.  At times, these corals showed recovery, but in other instances, no recovery was measurable and/or the corals continued to decline.  Thus, removal efforts are often helpful (most corals dying if nets aren’t removed), but recovery of these corals is variable and still may lead to community-level shifts.  This suggested that removal efforts are still necessary, but that more proactive solutions to eliminate the entry of derelict fishing gear into these environments are needed.

NOAA Marine Debris Program Project

5/1/2008 to 12/1/2009

Status: Closed

Location: Pacific Islands, [Hawaii]

Latitude/Longitude: 28.207007, -177.384167