Kauai News

Public invited to Kauaʻi East Side beach cleanup on Saturday

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The blue curve of Hanamāʻulu Bay, punctuated by several kite-surfers, sweeps out before Ahukini Recreational Pier on the East Side of Kaua‘i.

It’s a beautiful sight, but the man stooped near the pier was uninterested, until he stood up and raised two five-gallon buckets overflowing with garbage.

“All this in five minutes,” he said triumphantly. “Think of how much we can gather as a group.”

The man is Tim Leichliter, director of operations for the ocean conservation organization Hoʻomalu Ke Kai. It’s one of several Kaua‘i nonprofits and businesses hosting the “Da Kaua‘i East Side Sweep” beach cleanup on Dec. 17 – and they’re inviting everyone to join them.

Tim Leichliter picks up debris at Ahukini Recreational Pier in Līhuʻe. Photo Courtesy: Scott Yunker

“It’s about inclusion, not exclusion,” Leichliter said. “We’re trying to make a community effort we can all jump in on.”

He said Kaua‘i’s east side (windward) collects more marine debris than anywhere else on the island.


Ho‘omalu Ke Kai collected nearly 20,000 pounds of marine debris from Kaua‘i shorelines in 2022, its first fiscal year as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

International commercial fishing nets and ropes made up nearly half of Ho‘omalu Ke Kai’s total take, although far stranger items have washed up over the years. Other local conservationists have reported finding everything from boats and bed springs to bowling balls and a child-size snow ski.

Broken hagfish and conger eel traps from Korean, Japanese and Chinese fisheries, which are known to entangle endangered Hawaiian monk seals, also are relatively common marine debris on Kaua‘i.

Kaua‘i collects an outsized portion of the Pacific Ocean’s trash, which is flung onto the Garden Isle’s shores by gyres carrying waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The local chapter of Surfrider, a nationwide conservation nonprofit, historically collects more marine debris — about 85,500 pounds per year, most of which stems from the international fishing industry — than all other Surfrider chapters combined.


However, residents of Hawai‘i may see less trash on their islands’ shores in the coming years. Researchers claim shifts in the garbage patch’s location are responsible for the trend.

Saturday’s cleanup effort will be the group’s “last hurrah” to celebrate and set the stage for 2023, according to Leichliter.

Other participants include nonprofit Kaua‘i Ocean Awareness and businesses Kaua‘i Beach Resort & Spa, Kaua‘i Sea Farm and Seasport Divers, which have assembled crews of volunteer employees.

Seasport Divers, a diving center based in Koloa, has also contributed dive accessories and gear to the event’s free raffle. Other raffle items will include gift cards to various businesses, and surf gear.

“By gathering up plastic trash off Kaua’i beaches and at sea, we reduce the impact to wildlife such as plankton, invertebrates, fish, sea turtles and Cetacea such as dolphin and whales,” said Capt. Tara Leota of Kaua‘i Ocean Awareness. “This collaborative effort is a great way to get involved and get others stoked about monthly cleanups on Kaua’i.”

  • Heavy fishing nets and rope made up nearly half of the marine debris collected by Ho‘omalu Ke Kai in 2022. Photo Courtesy: Ho‘omalu Ke Kai
  • Kaua‘i volunteers have found plastic debris dating to the 1950s and ’60s. Photo Courtesy: Ho‘omalu Ke Kai
  • Ho‘omalu Ke Kai removed 19,432 pounds of debris from Kaua‘i beaches this year. This pie chart breaks it down. Photo Courtesy: Ho‘omalu Ke Kai
  • All are invited to the Dec. 17 cleanup, which will offer volunteers refreshments, a light breakfast and an opportunities to win a free raffle. Photo Courtesy: Ho‘omalu Ke Kai

Da Kaua‘i East Side Sweep will begin at Nukoli’i Beach Park near Kaua‘i Beach Resort & Spa in Līhu‘e at 9 a.m. Volunteers will receive refreshments, a light breakfast and raffle tickets before fanning out to clean as many beaches as possible.

In addition to Nukoliʻi Beach Park, confirmed cleanup locations include:

  • Hanamaʻulu Beach Park
  • Ahukini Pier and other areas behind Līhu‘e Airport
  • Paliku Beach (also known as Donkey Beach) and northern cove areas
  • Papa‘a Beach (also known as Flags)
  • Marine Camp Beach near Wailua Motocross Track

Enterprising volunteers also are encouraged to form groups for other spots. New locations can be added to the event signup form linked below.

Volunteers will reconvene at Nukoliʻi by noon to sort and weigh collected marine debris, and to compare notes with other teams.

“People [are welcome to join] and say thank you to our island for everything it gives us all year long,” Leichliter said.

For more information about Ho‘omalu Ke Kai, click here.

To sign up for the Dec. 17 cleanup, click here.

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."
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