Aerial view of Tern Island, Located about 564 miles northwest of Honolulu, Hawaii. The island may be the first to be designated as a U.S. EPA Superfund site for ocean plastic pollution. Photo: France Lanting / Getty Images

By Taylor Hill
12 September 2014 

( – Hawaiian green sea turtles, monk seals, and black-footed albatrosses are all closer to getting a cleaner, plastic-free home as the federal government takes a step toward declaring a remote Pacific atoll a Superfund site.

The designation, which the United States Environmental Protection Agency gives for areas severely contaminated by hazardous waste, would be the first granted for a site that was investigated for ocean plastic pollution.

“I’m thrilled the EPA is taking this historic first step to protect Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles from dangerous plastic litter,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “These animals face enough threats to their survival from sea level rise and habitat loss, the last thing they need is to choke on a floating plastic bag.”

Located about 564 miles northwest of Honolulu, Tern Island is as remote as an island can get. But the atoll is directly in the path of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, catching bits of the billions of pounds of swirling plastic that inundates the area.

That plastic—whether bags, fishing lines, or bottle caps—often ends up in the bellies of marine animals and birds.

“Initial studies conducted by EPA in areas outside of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands indicate that microplastic marine debris can accumulate and transport contaminants in the marine environment into the food chain,” Dean Higuchi, an EPA spokesman, said in an email. [more]

This Hawaiian Island Is So Polluted With Plastic That It Might Become a Superfund Site


  1. Anonymous said...

    Superfund "status" and funding will not change the amount of plastics being dumped into the ocean and washing up on shore.

    This designation won't change a thing in reality.

    These plastics are floating around in gigantic garbage patches from every country in the world.

    What it might do is provide some funding to clean things up - temporarily, say, in between high tide and low tide, or for 1 day or so at a time.

    Nice start. But not even close to being enough.  


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