West Coast sees more Japanese tsunami debris

By:  Staff Writer
Source: The Seattle Times

While most experts have said they don't expect debris from last year's Japanese tsunami to wash up on West Coast beaches for another year, some suspected flotsam has been found on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula, and a 150-foot Japanese fishing vessel is drifting about 120 nautical miles (about 138 statue miles) off Canada's Haida Gwaii, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Jerry Dean of Longview found several kinds of floats this month — a clear glass float and net, a yellow plastic float and several larger dark floats.

The fishing boat was the first major West Coast tsunami debris confirmed by Japanese officials, said a news release last week from Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

"And now, we've learned that larger debris could reach our coastlines sooner than expected. With some debris already moving toward the West Coast, we need more data and better science to track and respond to tsunami debris," the release said.

Japanese local officials confirmed that the boat had originated in Japan, she said.

The Japanese owner of the fishing boat, which drifted across the Pacific after getting washed away from its moorings by the tsunami does not want it back, a Japanese official said..

On its current trajectory and speed, the vessel won't make landfall for approximately 50 days, said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

"This discovery is further proof that the U.S. government needs a comprehensive plan for coordination and response to the tsunami debris. Coastal residents need to know who is in charge of tsunami debris response — and we need clearer answers now," the news release said.

Cantwell said residents "can't afford to wait until more tsunami debris washes ashore to understand its potential impact on Washington state's $10.8 billion coastal economy."

The Daily News of Longview reported this week that Dean and friend Russ Bryant had also found four large light bulbs — some marked with Japanese writing — as well as assorted bottles and jars.

Earlier this year, large floats of the type used at Japanese oyster farms were found on the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is urging beachcombers to report unusual finds to marinedebris@noaa.gov.

After a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, an enormous amount of debris was washed out to sea.

One year later, very little is known about the composition or trajectory of the debris, other than it's moving toward the United States.