Think that Japan’s tsunami is long forgotten? Think again. Since the March 2011 incident, U.S. Pacific coastlines have been constantly reminded of the event through the various debris that has been washing ashore.
Pieces of wood, plastic, and flotsam from Japan’s earthquake and tsunami started washing up onto Washington’s beaches in September 2011. According to an oceanographer reporting on the tsunami debris in a 2012 article, the debris field is equivalent to the size of California.
Recent in the news, a massive dock has washed up onto Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. It was first spotted December 18 on the northwestern tip of Washington in a remote area between La Push and the Hoh River. The dock is estimated to be about 60 feet long and 19 feet wide.
But this isn’t the only dock that has been found. It was only last summer when a 70-foot long dock from a Japan fishing port floated onto Oregon’s shore. The Oregon dock was sterilized with torches and broken up into pieces. The Seattle and Oregon docks are believed to be two of four docks from a fishing port in Misawa.
Though this dock might be fun to poke around and look at, it actually poses potential danger to the community and marine wildlife. The dock contains invasive species from Japan that can threaten our native wildlife.
Lucky for the community, but unlucky for those working for the Ecology Department and Department of Fish and Wildlife, who need to inspect the dock, the dock is located in a hard-to-reach area. Weather conditions, the high tide, and the bluff made it difficult for crew members to access the dock.
Once crew members were able to access the dock they were able to scrub off over 400 pounds of organic material and decontaminated the dock. So far 50 species have been identified as native to Japan. None of these species pose a high risk of becoming invasive.
It has been confirmed that Japan does not wish to have their dock returned to them. Now the question is what to do with the dock; removal could cost thousands of dollars.
The NOAA estimates that the bulk of the debris from Japan’s tsunami should be expected to appear on shores within this year. If you see anything that looks like debris from the tsunami, be respectful and report it to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.