Water quality can be impacted by the presence of contaminants (for example pesticides, hydrocarbons (e.g., oil), and heavy metals), excessive sedimentation, and elevated nutrient loads. Large areas of the marine environment of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are considered to be nearly pristine due to their remoteness, the fact that most of the islets and shoals remain uninhabited, and the oceanographic conditions of the central Pacific Ocean. While there have been very few studies conducted on contamination, the lack of major pollution sources and the health and productivity of the coral reef ecosystems in the area strongly suggest that the marine environment is relatively unpolluted except during oil spills and other pollution discharges during ship groundings.
Although the water surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are minimally affected by anthropogenic stressors, some water quality impacts due to past human activities remain. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have hosted an array of polluting human activities including guano mining, fishing camps, U.S. Coast Guard LORAN stations, various Cold War military missions, and U.S. Navy airfields and bases. Contamination at all these sites includes onshore and offshore debris such as batteries (lead and mercury), PCB-containing transformers, capacitors, and barrels of petroleum and other chemicals. Many of the common contaminants biomagnify so that small amounts found in sediment can result in significant concentrations in upper trophic levels. Additionally near shore sediment sampling completed in 2000, suggested the potential for localized water contamination, as contaminants in sediments can contribute to water quality degradation.
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- Which locations within the Monument contain land-based contaminants that are measureable within surrounding waters?
- Do land-based contaminants impact marine organisms?
- For those areas where land-based contaminants are measurable in the surrounding waters, what mitigation options are available to address the contamination?
Education and Outreach Material
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Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. 2009. Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Condition Report 2009. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Silver Spring, MD. 54 pp.
Friedlander, A.M., G. Aeby, R. Brainard, A. Clark, E. DeMartini, S. Godwin, J. Kenyon, R. Kosaki, J. Maragos, P. Vroom. 2005. The sate of coral reef ecosystems of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. pp. 270-311. In: J. Waddell (ed.), The state of coral reef ecosystems of the United States and Pacific freely associated states: 2005. NOAA Technical Memorandum, NOS NCCOS 11. NOAA/NCCOS Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment’s Biogeography Team. Silver Spring, MD. 522 pp. http://ccma.nos.noaa.gov/ecosystems/coralreef/coral_report_2005/NWHI_Ch10_C.pdf