Kodiak Group to Clean up Marine Debris on Shuyak Island

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

An upcoming marine debris removal project will combine camping and environmental cleanup. Tom Pogson of Island Trails Network says the group has received funding from NOAA to fly a handful of volunteers over to Shuyak Island to do marine cleanup there, most likely starting summer 2016.

“The goals of the project are to completely clean Shuyak, to characterize the debris that we’re gonna get there so that we can identify the primary sources of the debris and then by analyzing the debris that we get there, literally sorting it and classifying it, we hope to identify ways in which we can minimize the kinds of debris that are on Shuyak which are gonna be somewhat representative of what’s in the rest of the Kodiak archipelago.”
He says Island Trails Network chose Shuyak in part because it’s one of the gems of the Alaska State Park system.

“It’s managed for its natural values. It’s surrounded by productive fisheries, marine mammals, and all of the biota that is negatively impacted by marine debris. In addition to that, repeated aerial surveys and repeated, actually, cleanups there, have shown that a lot of marine debris accumulates on Shuyak.”

He says probably more rapidly than they imagine, which may have something to do with Shuyak’s position as Kodiak’s easternmost large island. He says it’s located at the point where the tidal stream from Cook Inlet splits and goes around Kodiak…
“Half of it going into Shelikof Strait, the other half going essentially along the south coast of the whole archipelago. It’s also right there at the edge of the gulf current, so I suspect that a lot of marine debris is carried by the gulf current and then driven ashore on Shuyak by the storm winds, which are almost always easterly.”

He says they’ll also be able to assess how quickly marine debris gathers using the 12-mile southeast coastline of Shuyak as a comparison point.

“It was pretty well cleaned in 2013 and 2014 by two different projects. By the time we get there, we’re gonna be able to completely clean it. And we know how much material came off that shoreline in 2013 and 14. Here we are 3, 4 years later. We’re gonna see how much stuff is there now.”

Pogson says he found out about receiving funding the same day the marine debris barge arrived, which shipped the debris off Kodiak Island and set off to do the same along the coast. Pogson says the group will receive about $128,000 from NOAA over two years and they will provide about $230,000 from their own resources.

Pogson also explains they will try to do the project in a way that will involve the community as a resource.

“A lot of people love sorting the marine debris, they love seeing what’s in the bags. It’s a bit of a treasure hunt. We do need people in the community to help us understand how we might be able to minimize or reduce the amount of debris… how we can reduce the kinds of debris that we’re gonna find up there as a bigger picture to how we can get a handle on the problem in our area.”
He says they will also need six volunteers to fly to Shuyak for two week stretches.

“We’re gonna have strategic base camps on different locations on Shuyak and volunteers are gonna be able to come for two week stints and camp and we’re gonna travel to the cleanup sites from camp and sea kayaks and access all the shorelines of Shuyak – so it’s a two week camping and cleanup trip.”

Pogson says he’s just beginning to identify how to approach the project and says they should start looking for volunteers more towards the holidays.     

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