Beach clean-up crews this summer reported are marked increase in the amount of marine debris washing up on Alaska beaches—much of which is consistent with debris from last year’s Japanese tsunami. And this week, Japan announced plans to help Alaska and other west coast regions clean up tsunami debris.
Governor Sean Parnell on Monday welcomed the news that the government of Japan plans to contribute $6 million toward cleaning up the massive amounts of trash, boats, buildings and other debris that is making its way toward west coast beaches.
Alaskans appreciate the expression of goodwill, Parnell said in a report posted on the governor’s website. The debris assistance was announced by Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at a conference with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in March 2011. The massive wave rushed in knocking everything in its path off its foundation and sucked it all out to sea where it’s been gradually making its way east across the Pacific Ocean.
The government of Japan estimates that the tsunami set nearly 1.5 million tons of material drifting off the coast of Japan.
Beachcombers and others along Alaska southeast and south central coasts have reported finding everything from buoys to fishing boats.
Private cleanup crews working on the outer beaches of the Kenai Peninsula and on islands in the Gulf of Alaska have reported significant increases in the amount of debris compared to previous years, reports DEC Commissioner Larry Hartig. In a statement on the state’s website, he says the type of debris found is consistent with much of it having originated with the Japanese tsunami.
He adds that an aerial survey contracted for by the DEC is still being evalutated, but so far it also supports those anecdotal conclusions.
OK, so what exactly are you supposed to do if you stumble upon something distinctly Japanese while out walking the dog on the beach?
It depends. Generally speaking, the stuff washing up was likely washed out to sea before the nuclear reactors were damaged, so there is little likelihood of what you find at this point would be radioactive. However, there is a good chance that a lot of it has hazardous waste in it and alien species attached to it, so exercise caution with even the most basic things you find.
For specifics go to the state’s special website dealing with the Japanese tsunami debris. We have a link on our site, which is leghead.com.