The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is preparing California’s coast for the potential arrival of debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, providing up to $50,000 for the removal of such refuse from affected coastlines.
NOAA reports that California has yet to confirm any occurrences of seaborne Japanese debris, though 10 confirmed incidents have been reported across Alaska, Washington, and British Colombia, Canada. According to Ben Sherman, NOAA public affairs officer, the application process for the federal grants was completed earlier this month, and the state should see funding by the end of September. Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Hawai’i will also receive grants of up to $50,000 for a total of $250,000 across all five states.
Sherman said California’s coasts have seen a typical level of ocean debris for this season. Though the scope of the Japanese disaster makes predicting the type of potentially incoming debris difficult, Sherman said several Styrofoam pieces, fishing floats, various sizes of dock sections, a soccer ball and basketball, and even a Harley-Davidson motorcycle inside a shipping container have washed onto North America’s West Coast and have been confirmed as originating from Japan.
Debris could continue to wash up over the next few years, as the Japanese government estimated 1.5 million tons of debris remains on the surface of the Pacific Ocean over an area about three times the size of the continental United States, centered north of the main Hawaiian islands and east of Midway Atoll. The Japanese government estimates a further 3.5 million tons of debris sank shortly after the tsunami.
NOAA officials are working with the Japanese government and state authorities to coordinate debris identification and removal. Citizens should report debris sightings to local authorities or to firstname.lastname@example.org, particularly if the object is covered or contains marine life or growth. For more information, visit http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris/.