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By Jan TenBruggencate

HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (October 2, 2000 – The Honolulu Advertiser)---The easterly winds that often blow across the Islands can keep some drifting items bouncing from island to island.

Beachcombers on Kaua´i often find debris that clearly has floated in from O´ahu, such as broken surfboards with the Honolulu shapers’ names on them.

Folks on Moloka´i find stuff from Maui. Film from a disposable underwater camera that arrived on East Moloka´i a couple of years ago revealed tourists enjoying the beaches of Ka´anapali.

In each of those cases, the floating material had only a single island channel to cross.

But researchers on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands recently found clear evidence of an object that crossed at least four channels before going aground.

The item was an orange fish aggregating device, or FAD – a large steel buoy trailing a long section of iron chain. It was hung up on the reef at French Frigate Shoals.

Printing on the buoy indicated it had been anchored off Makapu´u, O´ahu, from 1995 to 1999. It had drifted past Kaua´i, Ni´ihau, Nihoa and Necker islands before becoming hung up on the reefs of the south side of French Frigate Shoals – a distance of more than 500 miles.

"This is not the first FAD to show up in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Recently a different one found its way to Midway, and at least three others broke off and were found in the northwestern islands in the early ‘80s," said Athline Clark, of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Aquatic Resources.

The length of heavy chain on the French Frigate FAD was dragging along the reef, breaking coral as it went. In this way, it is like large conglomerations of fishing net and line, which wash up and get caught on the reefs, where they roll and twist, ripping coral reefs apart as they go.

The FAD is a reminder of one of the forms of damage caused by marine debris, but also that anything we toss in the ocean remains with us – whether it is directly released into the sea or is dropped on a street, washing into a storm drain that dumps into the ocean.

State officials hope the FAD can be recovered during a marine debris cleanup of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands next month, so it can be placed back in service. FADs are anchored around the main Hawaiian Islands to attract fish for fishermen.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Rapid Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program, whose people found the FAD, is part of a month long scientific survey of the reefs and islands to the northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands.

Two ships, the Townsend Cromwell and the Rapture, are platforms for the research. For more information, see the expedition’s Web sit at


For additional reports from The Honolulu Advertiser, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Honolulu Advertiser. 

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