• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 34s

Managing marine debris on Alaska’s Montague Island

By Heather Hintze 7:13 PM June 1, 2016

The secluded shores of Montague Island may be scenic, but they’re anything but pristine.

Clumps of Styrofoam, brightly colored fishing buoys and millions of plastic water bottles are tucked in between driftwood.

“Most people are completely unaware you can pull up on a remote Alaska beach and it will be completely trashed,” said Eric Pallister, a marine debris specialist with the nonprofit organization Gulf of Alaska Keeper (GoAK).

He and his crew of nine other men have been working on Montague Island for the past three summers.

Montague is the largest uninhabited island in the United States. On the edge of Prince William Sound, about 60 miles from Cordova, its coastline catches tons of marine debris.

“It’s pretty mind blowing,” said Scott Groves. “I wasn’t prepared to see this and I wasn’t expecting to see it as much as I am.”

The garbage really piles up at Patton Bay, a few miles down the beach from where the men are currently working.

“Big tires, tons of huge fishing buoys, nets,” Pallister listed off. “Tons of Styrofoam, everywhere.”

GoAK estimates about half of the debris washed up is from the 2011 Japan tsunami; garbage also comes from container spills and ship wrecks. About 80 percent of the plastic bottles found come from overseas.

At the rate the crew is cleaning– less than a quarter mile per day– it will take them about eight years to clean the 74 miles of the outer coast of Montague Island.

“It kind of makes me sad,” Pallister sighed. “It’s a huge problem. Plastics haven’t been around that long. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like in another 50, 100 years from now.”

The men spend 30 days camped on a boat near the island and have a helicopter shuttle them to the cleanup sites every morning. All of the trash gets stuffed into “super sacks” that will be airlifted out in July. A helicopter will bring the garbage back to Anchorage where the team will sift through to find the recyclables.

The work isn’t just demanding, it’s expensive. Each mile of coastal cleanup costs the group about $100,000. A lot of the money comes from grants. Japan gave the U.S. $5 million for tsunami debris cleanup. That’s used on an “as needed” basis. GoAK said, so far, Alaska’s burned through about $3.5 million.

“It never ends. It goes on forever,” Pallister said, looking over the debris at Patton Bay. He’s been a part of GoAK for 12 years and said all of the long days are worth it. “You do what you can to make the world a better place. It’s not much, but it’s something.”

He said everyone needs to do their part– whether it’s cleaning up the trash or recycling to prevent debris in the first place– to keep Alaska’s beaches from becoming an ocean landfill.

KTVA 11’s Heather Hintze can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

Latest Stories

  • On-Air

    Inside the Gates: Change of command for the Army’s 4/25

    by Lauren Maxwell on Mar 24, 20:55

    A change of command ceremony on JBER Friday morning welcomed a new leader to the nation’s only Arctic airborne combat brigade. Col. Paul Larson assumed command of the Army’s 4/25 Airborne Brigade Combat Team. It’s the first assignment in Alaska for Larson, who spent the last six months in Afghanistan. When asked about the challenges […]

  • Lifestyle

    UAA unveils Alaska’s first lactation pod for nursing mothers

    by Shannon Ballard on Mar 24, 20:37

    Nursing mothers at the University of Alaska Anchorage now have a dedicated, private space to feed their babies or pump breast milk. A new lactation pod is located on the first floor of the student union, and is the first of its kind in the entire state. It features seating, shelves, electrical outlets and USB […]

  • Politics

    28 years later, Exxon Valdez still casts shadow as Alaskans weigh in on oil tax change

    by Liz Raines on Mar 24, 19:44

    Friday marked the 28th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill — and the end of a long week of debate in Juneau on big policy changes for the oil industry. Tensions leftover from the historic event have spilled over into a battle on oil tax credits. While lawmakers are welcoming of the revenue that oil […]

  • Sports

    Results: ASAA 3A, 4A high school basketball semifinals

    by Dave Goldman on Mar 24, 18:49

    Results from Friday’s semifinal games at the Alaska Airlines Center. Please check back; this story will be updated as games are completed. 3A Boys Semifinal Monroe Catholic 42 – Valdez 40 The Rams held off the Buccaneers’ late rally to advance to the title game. Valdez’ slow start didn’t help as it went scoreless in the […]

  • News

    Good Samaritan cleans graffiti from park strip train

    by Lauren Maxwell on Mar 24, 17:55

    ANCHORAGE — A good Samaritan has helped to remove the graffiti from the train that sits on the Delaney Park Strip, and it wasn’t the person who first volunteered to do the job in the first place. The graffiti was discovered Wednesday morning. Anchorage park planner Maeve Lavtar said she had instructed city maintenance crews […]

  • Sports

    Sitka basketball team returns to Anchorage after receiving national honor

    by Dave Leval on Mar 24, 17:08

      The Sitka Wolves basketball team are champions, and it has nothing to do with shooting percentage or rebounds. They made a return to Anchorage this week during the state basketball tournament. While their quest for a state title ended after a first round loss to Monroe Catholic, the Wolves were reminded of a much […]

  • Politics

    Young hails demise of health bill, wants more work on issue

    by Associated Press on Mar 24, 16:00

    The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. House says he would have voted against a GOP health care bill had it been brought to a vote. U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska says it was not good legislation. He says it would have hurt people on Medicaid and did not address issues with high costs. The […]

  • DayBreak

    Mic Check in the Morning: Rhythm Future Quartet

    by Daybreak Staff on Mar 24, 13:15

    Keeping the genre of gypsy jazz alive, the acoustic ensemble Rhythm Future Quartet will be touring Alaska for two weeks. Their first stop is downtown Anchorage. From there they will cross the state, going from Kodiak to Skagway. According to violinist Jason Anick, gypsy jazz is a style of music that was pioneered in France during […]