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.
Radiation: 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.”
Fukushima Dispersed Debris Guidelines By Debris Type
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 DisasterDebris@noaa.gov for response assistance
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.
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 toDisasterDebris@noaa.gov. 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.
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.
Sources: - http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris/