Worry Continues to Mount Over Japan’s Tsunami Debris
The tsunami that devastated Japan nearly a year ago may embark a new phase of destruction. Japanese officials say that 1.5 million tons of debris is floating in the ocean from the incident and has scientists concerned after a 66-foot concrete dock washed up on a Newport Oregon beach this week.
The dock weighs in at 165 tons and traveled 5,000 miles from Japan to the U.S.
“Obviously, we knew things would be coming our way, but I didn’t expect anything this size,” Tom Cleveland, a housekeeping supervisor at nearby beachfront condominiums, told the Associated Press.
Some experts think the feasibility of the millions of tons of trash reaching the coasts on the west is slim to none while others worry that it could be an environmental catastrophe. In terms of size and weight, this is something that U.S. officials haven’t really seen and apparently there is no cohesive plan or funding in the event that it happens. Some West Coast leaders have even went as far as to say that this scenario would pose a national emergency.
Items that have recently washed ashore that were traced back to Japan include a crate with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle inside it found in Canada and a basketball from an elementary school discovered in Alaska.
Tsunami debris is unpredictable because of the constantly changing currents and crashing waves. These conditions make it difficult to monitor the situation. A seattle based oceanographer predicts that the rest of the debris will wash up on the west coast come October during the beginning of the usual fall storms.
Although there is another risk that could wash up ashores aside from just the junk. Invasive species of seaweed, crabs, and other marine organisms could be latched on to all sorts of items. According to the assistant professor of Fisheries and Invasive Species John Chapman, this could present a different issue.
“We know extinctions occur with invasions. This is like arrows shot in the dark. Some of them could hit the mark.”
One example of this is Mitten crabs from China eat baby Dungeness crabs of North America. This poses problems for the fisheries that depend highly on these crabs for their business as well as pose risks to the species itself. A 2004 study showed that the U.S. faces 400 extinctions from invasive species.
The NOAA has set aside $600,000 for potential clean ups but U.S. senator Mark Begich thinks a sum of $45 million should be provided to local communities for clean-up efforts.
Trash in the ocean is nothing new. In fact, thousands of people dedicate their lives to keeping the beaches rid of it. This trash however is a little different in that it may contain trace amounts of radiation and could be dragging unwanted life into foreign territories. As the months go on, the full extent of the problem will be more realized. All we have to do it just wait it out and hope for the best.
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