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Huge net threatens bay's coral
By Jan TenBruggencate - Science Writer

The Honolulu Advertiser

19th November 2004

Divers with the NOAA Fisheries Coral Reef Ecosystem Division
haul part of a massive tangle of net onto an inflatable boat

Marine debris specialists yesterday began cutting up and removing a huge tangle of rope and net that has been ripping up coral on a patch reef in northern Kane'ohe Bay.

The net was described by federal marine debris divers as the biggest conglomerated mass of derelict rope and netting they have ever seen.

It was estimated to weigh more than three tons. In the water, the mass was 75 feet long, as much as 30 feet wide in places, and extended from near the surface to as much as 12 feet deep.

A 20-member team of state and federal employees worked from three boats yesterday to begin cutting up and removing the mass. The work was expected to be finished today.

State coral biologist Dave Gulko said the net has been dragging across the bay floor, creating a bulldozing effect.

The crew included divers from the NOAA Fisheries Coral Reef Ecosystem Division and personnel from the state Division of Land and Natural Resources. On shore, Aloha Waste and Unitek Service donated a container for loading the scrap net. Hawai'i Metals Recycle was to process the debris, and it will be burned in the city's HPOWER plant.

Because the mass was so large, it was pulled into deeper water and cut into pieces that could be hauled on board a boat for transport to shore. Because of the danger of diving around tangled rope and netting, safety divers were employed to prevent other divers from becoming entangled.

The material appeared to include pieces of several different trawl and cargo nets, numerous ropes and some gill netting that may have come from local reefs.

Earlier this year, the federal marine debris dive crew hauled 123 tons of netting, rope, and related derelict fishing gear from the reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.