Gulf of Alaska Keeper
GoAK is dedicated to cleaning marine debris off of Alaska's coastline. We are bracing ourselves for an unprecedented onslaught of debris from the tsunami that hit Japan. GoAK has removed nearly 1,000,000 pounds of plastics from Alaska's breathtaking and wildlife-rich coastline in the past ten years. Gulf of Alaska Keeper is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation comprised of five board members, three boats, and eight hard-working crew members.
The coastline of Alaska is immense and much of it inaccessible by road. Although occasionally originating from local land-based sources, most marine debris is delivered to Alaska’s remote coast by ocean currents. The vast coastline of Alaska receives most of its marine debris from offshore or foreign shipping and commercial fishing fleets, and everyday garbage from foreign countries and other sources. This debris can disrupt intertidal community structure, strangle marine mammals, and can be ingested by fish, birds, and mammals. It is also likely that plastic marine debris introduces toxic chemicals to the rich intertidal ecosystem. Gulf of Alaska Keeper (GoAK) crews and volunteers began cleaning marine debris from this coastline in 2001 and continue doing so today. In 2009, GoAK cleaned beaches in Prince William Sound and along the Kenai Peninsula in the Gore Point region.
Now and the Future
GoAK's crew is presently working on the northern GOA coast cleaning beaches between Day Harbor and PWS. This is a wild, uninhabited shoreline with few safe anchorages. It is a tough and demanding area to work, but is the last stretch of GOA coast we must finish cleaning this season under our contract with the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. That project should be completed by early September. GoAK then plans to spend some time cleaning tsunami-debris impacted beaches on northern Montague Island and inside PWS before fall storms shut our field projects down for the year. We have already hauled 10 landing-craft loads, or 400-cubic yards, of mostly plastic marine debris to port this season. We will likely pick up another 100-cubic yards before the season is over.
With staggering amounts of tsunami debris arriving on our shores, it is difficult to project what the future holds for marine debris cleanup projects. GoAK has the next two seasons of projects planned for EVOSTC; the summer of 2013 on the Barren Islands and the summer of 2014 on Montague Island’s GOA beaches. However, the immense quantities of toxic tsunami debris flooding our shores may necessitate a change in these cleanup plans. Next season, the State of Alaska and the federal government through NOAA are likely to become heavily involved with the tsunami debris cleanup. GoAK anticipates considerable amounts of tsunami debris to continue impacting our shorelines for the next 4 to 6 years. A large-scale, efficient and sustainable cleanup effort must be mounted to combat this problem. GoAK will do everything it can to help and will adapt its cleanup plans for the next few seasons accordingly. To all of our loyal supporters, we say thank you, and we hope to see you in the field with us again in the future.