Cantwell Statement on Sinking of Tsunami-Swept Japanese Vessel off Alaska Coast

Coast Guard successfully sinks Japanese fishing boat, first major tsunami debris

VANCOUVER, WA – Today U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) issued the following statement following the successful sinking off the coast of Alaska by the U.S. Coast Guard of the Japanese fishing boat swept away by the March 2011 tsunami.

“I applaud the Coast Guard’s speedy response to this navigational and environmental hazard. We are proud that Seattle scientists helped in the effort to minimize the environmental impact of the disposal of this tsunami-swept vessel. While this effort was successful, it’s a warning sign for more tsunami debris making its way across the Pacific.

“We need to be prepared with more data and better science to track and respond to tsunami debris approaching our coast. We need a clear federal action plan and emergency tsunami debris research to address this debris. We can’t afford to wait until more tsunami debris washes ashore to act and respond to potential debris impact on Washington state’s $10.8 billion coastal economy.”

Last November, Cantwell secured Senate Commerce Committee passage of an amendment to address the threat approaching tsunami debris poses to economies up and down Washington’s coastline. Cantwell’s amendment would identify the debris as a unique threat and require the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to develop an interagency action plan to help prepare our region for this potentially serious problem. Cantwell continues to fight to ensure a plan is in place to address the threat tsunami debris poses to Washington state’s coastal economy. The state’s coastal economy supports 165,000 jobs and produces $10.8 billion in economic activity each year.

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, and there is currently no plan in place to address a large-scale marine debris event such as the approaching tsunami debris.