Gulf of Alaska Keeper
In the 90s, future members of Gulf of Alaska Keeper (GoAK) became increasingly concerned that Prince William Sound (PWS) and the northern Gulf of Alaska (GOA) coast were under growing environmental threats from industrial pressures, increased recreational activities, unsustainable fish and wildlife harvesting practices, harmful logging projects, and other damaging exploitive activities. Not all of the damage to this fragile and beautiful eco-system was home grown. Enormous amounts of marine debris…primarily plastic, including everything from massive derelict commercial fishing nets from offshore fisheries to household items drifting in from Western Pacific countries…smothered untold miles of shoreline in Prince William Sound and along the northern GOA coast. They decided to organize to better address these issues.
Marine Debris, Scourge of the Oceans
Eleven years ago Chris Pallister started to clean PWS beaches with the help of volunteers. But, him and his team quickly learned that the marine debris problem was far more extensive and difficult than volunteer cleanups alone could address. They also learned that the environmental impacts from marine debris were far more wide ranging and serious than any of them had comprehended. Furthermore, nobody was doing much about it and, because of the myriad marine debris sources, most thought the problem was hopeless.
Consequently, Chris and his team decided that they needed to make a much greater effort to combat the problem, which meant addressing the problem with a sustainable professional effort. That helped spur the creation of Gulf of Alaska Keeper (GoAK). While GoAK was formed to address any conservation or environmental issue in PWS and along the northern GOA coast, one of their primary goals was, and continues to be, combatting marine debris in all of its forms.
Thirty Thousand Hours, One Thousand Miles, One Million Pounds
The GoAK crew and volunteers have been hard at work now for over a decade removing marine debris from beaches throughout PWS and along the northern GOA. Hundreds of volunteers have spent over 30,000 hours helping with the marine debris project over the past decade. GoAK has removed over a million pounds of toxic plastic debris from over a thousand miles of critical coastal habitat, restoring and enhancing rich inter-tidal ecosystems in the process.
Miles of blocked salmon spawning habitat have been restored by removing blockages of nets and lines from the mouths of numerous salmon spawning streams. Marine mammals such as seals and sea lions have been protected from the tons of nets, lines and packing bands removed from their feeding and rearing areas. Tons of plastic debris have been cleaned from meadows and forested uplands backing storm tossed beaches. Hundreds of fuel containers and drums of industrial chemicals and petroleum products have been hauled from the shorelines for proper disposal.
They have accomplished an incredible amount with all of their volunteers and partners such as NOAA, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, the Chugach National Forest, the Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation, BP, and Princess Tours. But sadly there is still much to do.