Marine debris funds will target Pribilof Island archipelago

The crater on Lake Hill of St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea. Photo courtesy Mat Wooller

Federal funds totaling $113,000 have been allocated to help the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island and the St. George Traditional Council to remove marine debris from the Pribilof Island archipelago in the Bering Sea.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association announced the grant to the two federally recognized tribes Thursday, Aug. 15.

Marine debris poses a big problem for St. Paul, St. George and Otter islands.

Since 2000, over 300,000 pounds of debris have been removed from St. Paul and St. George, more than 80 percent of which was fishing related gear.

The Aleut Community of St. Paul Island’s ecosystem conservation office conducted a cleanup in May that resulted in nearly 20,000 pounds of debris being removed in just four days.

Next summer’s project will be the first joint cleanup on both St. Paul and St. George and the first ever debris removal effort of Otter Island. The cleanup will be supported by a diverse constituency of tribal, city, community development quota, fishing industry and non-government organization partners.

Marine debris has significant impacts on wildlife and subsistence species on the islands, including northern fur seals, Steller sea lions and seabirds.

Nearly all of the hundreds of thousands of pounds of debris that wash up on the shores of the Pribilof Island archipelago come from far away, leaving these communities with the burden of cleaning it up, said Lauren Divine, director of the ecosystem conservation office in St. Paul.

Divine said they were grateful for partners in the cleanup, including the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, Trident Seafoods, Ocean Conservancy and Net Your Problem.