Clean up on the archipelago’s remote Tugidak Island is now underway. This is the second and final year of Kodiak Island Trails Network’s project to remove marine debris from the island, which is southwest of the southern tip of Kodiak Island.
Tom Pogson is the director of marine programs for Island Trails Network, or ITN, and has been on Tugidak for about two weeks now. He contacted KMXT via satellite phone and said so far this year’s clean up is going well.
“We decided that there was enough debris in the area that we cleaned last year and we re-cleaned that area in almost less than half the time and we’re now I think starting the second day of clean up into the new area.”
Last year ITN collected 130 super sacks worth of marine debris on Tugidak and Pogson said this summer they already have 65 bags after only seven days of clean up. The crew spent the first week on the island setting up camp and making sure everything was in working order, and last week volunteers and members of the Kodiak Wildlife Refuge’s Youth Conservation Corps made the trip south to participate in the first wave of debris removal.
Pogson said the weather so far has been incredible, with only two days of rain in the past two weeks. On Friday a new group of volunteers left for the island, where Pogson said they’ll face a few different habitats and terrains that need cleaning.
“You get into patches of high density stuff and then the sand dunes don’t seem to have much. There’s open beach, there’s not a lot on the open beach. Bird nesting is still going on and we know there’s things even just a little ways back of the dunes in the meadows, but if there’s any bird activity we have passed up on those areas and we expect to return there after nesting is over.”
Pogson said they are collecting about 10 to 15 super sacks of debris a day, mainly because things are running a lot smoother than they did during the program’s inaugural year. Super sacks are large bags – about 27 cubic feet, and capable of storing 100 to 400 pounds of debris.
“We have much better transportation. The trailers are bigger and we know a lot more about how to do it and we’re not actually stockpiling things on the beach at all. We’re stockpiled enough just to load two trailers worth and then as the tide allows we’re delivering in real time so we’re not accumulating – there’s no backlog.”
Pogson said the project is funded through a grant from the marine debris office of the National Oceanic and Atmoslpheric Administration, or NOAA. Island Trails matched those funds, in addition to providing staff, equipment, supplies and volunteers for clean up. He said money is only in place for this year, and he doesn’t think it’s likely to be renewed in the near future. For that reason, he said their efforts are focused on larger items.
“Every time you clean large areas of larger bits of debris – buoys, floats, nets, line – there’s an awful lot of micro plastic that takes a lot of time and we’re not focusing on that right now because we want to see what we can get along the length of the beach – the big stuff. But there’s an awful lot of microplastic that just would take a lot of time – it’s tedious and we’re not focusing on that for now. So there there’s a lot to do here that we’re not going to get done, but it’s a good effort.”
Pogson said crews will stay on the island until mid August, and volunteer opportunties have opened for all of next week. Folks only need a sleeping bag and appropriate clothing. Transportation to and from Tugidak is provided. Those interested in taking part can reach ITN’s in-town contact, Marian Royall, to secure a spot on the trip.