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Tsunami Debris Set to Hit the US

Nov. 01/11

A 25 million tonne marine debris field created by the Japanese tsunami back in March currently afloat in the North Pacific is set to reach Hawaii by this winter, according to experts.

There is much that we still don’t know about the amounts and types of tsunami-generated marine debris still afloat in the North Pacific

Carey Morishige, Pacific Islands regional coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program

The debris field was created as the Japanese tsunami receded from the land. Although heavier materials sank, the buoyant materials went on to form the huge rubbish mass which floated out to sea.

Worryingly, the debris is moving more quickly than previously anticipated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Hawaii researchers have run a model using OSCURS (Ocean Surface Current Simulator) to estimate general direction and drift rate of debris.

If their models are correct, debris could pass near or wash ashore in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands this winter and the rest of the archipelago in less than two years. Debris is estimated to reach the West Coast of the United States in 2013.

Carey Morishige, Pacific Islands regional coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program / IMSG said: “There is much that we still don’t know about the amounts and types of tsunami-generated marine debris still afloat in the North Pacific. More information is also needed to better predict and thus prepare for the impacts this debris may have in U.S. waters and along shorelines.

To that end, the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) is leading efforts to gather information to better understand what tsunami-generated debris may be still afloat in the north Pacific, particularly types and quantities of potential tsunami debris”.

A tsunami debris workgroup has been formed with partners from governmental, non-governmental, and academic sectors, to address, coordinate, and plan for tsunami-generated marine debris. Along with collecting information on debris at sea, monitoring of shoreline debris has also begun with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tern Island in French Frigate Shoals and Midway Atoll.

NOAA is calling for cooperation from commercial vessels and the shipping and fishing industries. Information on significant marine debris sightings in the North Pacific Ocean is greatly needed and can be reported to: MDsightings@gmail.com