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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NOAA: Japan Fukushima Tusunami Marine Debris Island West Coast Impact Facts And Map

 On March 11, 2011, a devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. The disaster claimed nearly 16,000 lives, injured 6,000, and destroyed or damaged countless buildings. As a result of the disaster, NOAA expects a portion of the debris that the tsunami washed into the ocean to reach U.S. and Canadian shores over the next several years. 

The tsunami killed almost 16,000 people in Japan, caused numerous problems at the nuclear plant in Fukushima, and dislodged more than 1.5 million floating objects into the Pacific Ocean.

Now, a collection of debris the size of Texas is roughly 1,700 miles off the coast of California. the massive island of debris is slowly making its way to the United States after forming in the wake of the tsunami that rocked Japan back in 2011.

Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Map

NOAA models estimate where debris may be today. Credit: NOAA

Tusunami Marine Debris Island  Credit: US Navy
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the debris scattered by the tsunami has been spread around an area of the ocean that’s three times the size of the continental United States. It also said to expect trash to continue arriving on American shores for the next few years.Already, objects such as boats, rooftops, soccer balls, and docks have hit various parts of the West Coast. Even more will arrive with the Texas-sized island, but, more than the trash, scientists are interested in the organisms that could be living on them.

"At first we were only thinking about objects like the floating docks, but now we’re finding that all kinds of Japanese organisms are growing on the debris," - John Chapman of the Marine Science Center at Oregon State University

"We've found over 165 non-native species so far," he continued. "One type of insect, and almost all the others are marine organisms … we found the European blue mussel, which was introduced to Asia long ago, and then it grew on a lot of these things that are coming across the Pacific ... we’d never seen it here, and we don’t particularly want it here."

The worst-case scenario would be that the trash is housing invasive organisms that could disrupt the local environment’s current balance of life. Such was the case in Guam, where earlier this year it was announced that the US government intended to parachute dead mice laced with painkillers onto the island in order to deal with an invasive species of brown tree snakes that were believed to have been brought to the American territory on a military ship over 60 years ago. In a little over half a century, a few snakes spawned what became an estimated two million animals, the likes of which ravaged the island’s native bird population and warranted government intervention.

Other concerns such as radiation, meanwhile, have been downplayed. On its website, the NOAA says, “Radiation experts agree that it is highly unlikely that any tsunami generated marine debris will hold harmful levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear emergency.”
 There is no reason to avoid beaches and it is not anticipated there will be dangerous radiation dose masses washing ashore.
 Radiation experts believe it is highly unlikely any debris is radioactive, and Independent groups like the 5 Gyres Institute, which tracks pollution out at sea, have echoed NOAA’s findings, saying that radiation readings have been “inconsequential.” 
 The release of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear reactor should be a grave concern, but some scientists say it will be diluted to the point of being harmless by the time it reaches American shores in 2014, others think it a environmental disaster which will kill the west coast of America, we still await those answers....

Update: Removal of Japanese dock on Olympic Coast completed
A 185-ton dock that washed out to sea during the March 2011 tsunami in Japan has now been removed from Washington's Olympic Coast. As of today, crews from The Undersea Company of Port Townsend, Wash., removed the last of the dock's concrete and plastic foam from the beach and the inland landing site.

Fukushima Dispersed Debris Guidelines By Debris Type

Litter and other typical marine debris itemsExamples: Plastic bottles, aluminum cans, buoys, StyrofoamCommon marine debris types may vary by location. If safe and practical, we encourage you to remove the debris and recycle as much of it as possible.
Potential hazardous materials (HAZMAT)
Examples: Oil or chemical drums, gas cans, propane tanks.
Contact your local authorities (a 911 call), a state emergency response or environmental health agency, and the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 to report the item with as much information as possible. Do not touch the item or attempt to move it. Do not contact for response assistance
Derelict vessel or other large debris item
Examples: Adrift fishing boat, shipping containers
Contact your local authorities (a 911 call) and a state emergency response or environmental health agency to report the item. If the debris item is a potential hazard to navigation, immediately radio your nearest US Coast Guard Sector Command Center via VHF-FM Ch. 16 or 2182 MHz or notify the US Coast Guard Pacific Area Command at 510-437-3701. Do not attempt to move or remove the item.
Mementos or possessions
Examples: Items with unique identifiers, names, or markings
If an item can 1) be traced back to an individual or group and 2) has personal or monetary value, it should be reported NOAA will work with local Japan consulates to determine if they can help identify its owner.
It is highly unlikely that remains from the tsunami will reach the United States, but if you see human remains anywhere, contact local authorities (a 911 call) and report what you observed. Do not touch or attempt to move them.
Unknown item 
If you don't know what it is, don't touch it. If you believe it is a hazardous item, contact local authorities and report it.
If you find tsunami debris, report it to:DisasterDebris

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