PWF Wins NOAA Marine Debris Program Grant
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Pacific Whale Foundation wins NOAA grant
for Marine Debris Awareness

Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) has received a competitive grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to engage the public in marine debris awareness and prevention, focusing on implementing legislation for tobacco-free beaches and parks. Only 12 grants were awarded by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program and PWF was the only recipient selected from the Pacific Island region. 

Cigarette butts represent the most common type of litter found along Maui’s coastlines. Pacific Whale Foundation and other environmental organizations supported a bill passed by Maui County in April 2014 that prohibits the use of tobacco products, including cigarette smoking, in designated county areas. More recently in June 2015, the state of Hawaii passed a similar tobacco-free policy for state beaches and parks. 

Despite this legislation, marine debris research data indicate that the policies have had little immediate impact on the amount of tobacco related products found on beaches. This is in contrast to the ban on plastic grocery bags implemented in 2011, which has had a significant impact as evidenced by the reduction of plastic bags collected during recent PWF marine debris studies. Tobacco-free beaches and parks legislation depends on the consumer and local enforcement, and is therefore more difficult to implement.

Pacific Whale Foundation was awarded the grant by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program to develop a holistic public awareness campaign that will educate the community on marine debris issues, specifically with respect to tobacco related litter on Maui beaches. The goal is to impact public attitudes and personal behaviors in measurable ways that limit the increase of marine debris in the world’s oceans.

Pacific Whale Foundation is well-positioned to carry out such a campaign due to its over 36 years of activism and advocacy on behalf of marine conservation. PWF conducts various programs and activities on Maui that will be leveraged for the marine debris campaign, including the Maui Whale Festival which has a local, national and international reach. Other PWF initiatives with significant outreach components include Volunteer on Vacation, as well as educational programs aimed at schoolchildren, including Keiki Whalewatches and Ocean Camp

Public awareness-building will also be facilitated through PWF’s Eco-Adventure cruises, which educate tourists and residents alike on a daily basis year-round. The profits from these ecotours also support ocean conservation and research programs, such as the marine debris studies that form the basis of this current NOAA grant award. Pacific Whale Foundation will also form strategic partnerships in the public and private sectors to spread the word about marine debris and tobacco-free beaches legislation. Confirmed project partners to date include Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, Kamehameha Schools, Maui Hotel and Lodging Association and Maui Hui Malama Learning Center. The project is spearheaded by PWF’s Research and Conservation Department, led by Chief Scientist Greg Kaufman and Senior Researchers Jens Currie and Stephanie Stack.

Greg Kaufman is the Founder and Executive Director of Pacific Whale Foundation. He serves as the international whalewatch representative to the International Whaling Commission's Conservation Committee and is an Invited Participant to the IWC's Scientific Committee. Kaufman is also the whalewatch representative on the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s Advisory Council.

Jens Currie, Senior Research Analyst at PWF, is a marine biologist from Nova Scotia, Canada with a B.Sc. Honors and M.Sc. in Biology at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. Previously Jens worked for Fisheries and Oceans Canada as a physical scientist completing ecosystem based modeling.

Stephanie Stack is Senior Research Biologist at PWF and holds a B.S. and Master of Environmental Science from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. Previously, Stephanie worked at the Ocean Sciences Center in Canada.

Pacific Whale Foundation is a non-profit organization established on Maui in 1980 to protect whales and our oceans through science and advocacy. Its study on marine debris was recently published in Marine Pollution Bulletin. For more information on Pacific Whale Foundation's research, education and conservation programs in Hawaii, Australia, Chile and Ecuador, please visit

If you are interested in helping Pacific Whale Foundation complete monthly beach clean-ups as part of their marine debris awareness and prevention campaign, please email or call the research department at (808) 856-8338.

Media Contact:
Alison Stewart
Pacific Whale Foundation
(808) 283-9822

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