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Gulf of Alaska Keeper

GoAK is dedicated to removing marine debris from Alaska's coast and preventing its re-accumulation. Large marine-debris cleanup projects have been our focus for years. However, the unprecedented amount of marine debris that continues to wash ashore in Alaska from the March 2011 Great Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami challenged our ability to respond. While it is tempting to consider the Japanese tsunami-debris event a unique occurrence, it is not. The 2004 Indonesian tsunami, recurring destructive cyclones in the Philippines and other areas, shipwrecks, and numerous large shipping-container spills repeatedly deposit massive quantities of marine debris in the Pacific Ocean, and in all other marine waters. These high-impact events stand out against a background of constant marine-debris deposition from land-based runoff, intentional dumping, shipping waste, recreational boating debris, industrial debris, and commercial-fishing debris. Our oceans and sensitive coastal habitat are under assault from plastic and other toxic marine debris. In response, GoAK will continue to expand its marine-debris cleanup program while encouraging others to join the effort through education, prevention and cleanup efforts. GoAK members and volunteers began cleaning marine debris from the Northern Gulf of Alaska coastline in 2002 and continue doing so today. We have removed over 1,500,000 pounds of plastics from 1,400 miles of Alaska's breathtaking and wildlife-rich coastline during the past 13 years. GoAK is a 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation comprised of five board members, four boats, and a small group of devoted, hard-working crew members. Although small, we dream big and accomplish much.

Now and the Future

Alaska’s immense coast is mostly inaccessible by road. Although occasionally originating from local land-based sources, most marine debris is delivered to Alaska's remote shores by ocean currents and wind. The vast coastline of Alaska receives much of its marine debris from offshore or foreign shipping and commercial-fishing fleets, and everyday garbage from Western Pacific countries and other sources. The debris disrupts intertidal community structure, strangles marine mammals, and is ingested by fish, birds, and mammals. Plastic marine debris also introduces toxic chemicals to the rich marine ecosystem, directly impacting fish and birds, and potentially the health of humans that depend upon these resources for sustenance. GoAK recognized early on that marine debris, particularly plastic debris, poses far more than a simple aesthetic problem with trash fouling beautiful pristine beaches. We knew that it is a not only an existing physical and biological threat to wildlife, but is a threat that will last for generations unless aggressive steps are undertaken to combat the problem. GoAK will remain at the forefront of efforts to rid the oceans of marine debris. Each season GoAK's crew works on specific stretches of the Gulf of Alaska coast, often cleaning hundreds of miles of remote shoreline. This is a wild, storm-tossed, largely uninhabited region with safe harbors often widely dispersed. It is a challenging and costly area in which to work. With staggering amounts of tsunami and other marine debris continuing to arrive on our shores, it is difficult to project what the future holds for marine-debris cleanup projects. These projects are very expensive and adequate funding is a perpetual challenge. In addition to the countless pieces of plastic that must be removed from boulder and log-strewn beaches, large quantities of hazardous materials must be recovered. Hazardous materials, including containers of unknown chemicals, creosote-treated pilings and other dock components, and pressure-treated lumber dumped into the ocean by tsunamis or shipping accidents, are flooding Alaska’s shore. Hazardous materials are extremely costly to remove and safely deposit in certified facilities. Although there are never adequate resources to address marine debris issues, GoAK always strive to accomplish as much as possible with those limited resources. GoAK has several cleanup projects planned for 2015. In May we will resume a multi-year cleanup effort on Northeast Montague Island for EVOSTC and will extend that project through June for ADEC with Government of Japan funding. We will then clean beaches in the Gore Point region for ADEC in early July and then will transition in mid-July to a project that will remove debris collected and cached during multiple cleanup projects along the Northern Gulf of Alaska coast. Debris collected in 2013 through 2015 will be airlifted onto a barge and shipped out of state for recycling. To all of our sponsors, loyal supporters and volunteers we say thank you. We know that none of this work can get done without you. We hope to see you in the field with us again soon.