Slide background

News and Media

News and Media

By Founder and President Kurt Lieber

As coincidence would have it…

One week after ODA volunteer divers removed a FAD (Fish Aggregating Device) from the waters off Oahu, our marine-debris-removal partners Kohala Divers located and removed another one!  This time it was found off the northwest shores of the Big Island of Hawai’i.

Kohala folks and Captain Kurt

Greg Kaufmann is the owner and operator of their dive boat. 

Kohala Divers boat

When he was taking people out for recreational diving, he and his crew saw something in the water, but they couldn’t quite make out what it was.  They’d never seen anything like it before.

Rebekah, Greg’s wife, sent me a picture asking if I knew what it was. 

Even though it was hard to make out from the picture, I had a sneaking suspicion of what it was.  A few days later I sent them some pictures that Ken Staples and Glenn Roberts had taken of the FAD that they helped to remove from Oahu waters.

ODA-HI-Oahu removes dangerous ghost gear


Greg went out to the exact location where they had seen it days before, and it was still there.  This indicates that it was somehow anchored to the sea floor. 

They pulled the boat up close to the device. Greg had one of his crew get into their dive gear and jump in the water with him. 

Greg of Kohala Divers

When they dropped down a few feet they could see that there was a big piece of net that was fastened to the topside of the FAD and the net ran down to the bottom where it was snagged on a reef.

Since it was just the two of them, they didn’t want to risk their safety and decided to just cut the net free and come back for that when they could have more people to help out.

They got the bulk of the FAD aboard and headed back to their boat slip in Kawaihae Harbor.

Illegal fishing gear removed

Nice going guys! 

I’ve been in contact with several people on both islands, asking if they have seen any of these FADs in the past.  Turns out some people have spotted them as far back as 2015, as well as more recently.  Several FADs have been found washed up on Kamila Beach, otherwise known as Trash Beach because of its propensity to accumulate all kinds of marine debris. 

Megan Lamson has been coordinating beach cleanups at Kamilo Beach for years now and took me along for a cleanup in 2017. 

Megan hauls away marine debris

I was, and continue to be, stunned by how much fishing gear washes up there.  So, it does not surprise me one bit that the area has seen its fair share of FADs.

These fishing devices are illegal and are (mostly) used by the purse seine fishing industry. 

Purse seiner from Wikicommons

The fishing boat will put one in the water and come back days later when the fish, turtles, and tuna are innocently swimming underneath it.  The fishermen then put their seine net in the water and surround the entire mass of fish.  They haul it in and throw overboard what they don’t want to keep, which will include dead turtles and sometimes dolphins.  These unfortunate victims are otherwise known as “by-catch.”

You can clearly see in this photo why they call it a "purse" seiner; it's in the shape of a purse.

Yellow fin tuna from Wikicommons

The purse seiners are after their most lucrative commodity, tuna.  Anything else is treated as trash.  It’s a shameful way to fish, and not sustainable over the long run.  The sustainable way to catch tuna is by using one pole and one fishing line.  There are groups of fishermen out there that promote this practice and do as they preach. 

Nice to know that some people are fishing ethically, and we need to do our part as consumers and support them by buying from companies that only buy tuna that are caught this way. 

Better yet, don’t buy any fish at all.  I choose to live by the motto: FISH ARE FRIENDS, NOT FOOD!

OK, I am getting off my high (sea) horse and going to take a dip with my friends… Splish!
--Captain Kurt

Keep your eye out for ocean debris and let us know when you see it! Who knows, maybe you’ll report the next FAD that we remove? Visit our Debris Report page either on your computer or your phone when you’re out at sea!