Tracking Marine Debris from the Japanese Tsunami Aftermath

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are tracking the path of debris pulled out to sea in the wake of the Japanese tsunami that took place in March of 2011, predicting that locations in Hawaii and the West Coast could see debris wash up over the next three years.

“We’re preparing for the best and worst case scenarios β€” and everything in between,” says Nancy Wallace, director for NOAA’s Marine Debris Program.

What is Left?

The debris that was once readily visible from satellite has now spread and dispersed so much that it is no longer visible from space. But it is still there, as many vessels have reported various sightings.

What is the Risk?

Given that there are no massive fields of debris wandering the oceans, is there any risk or need for concern? Definitely.

According to NOAA the worst case scenario see boats and other unmanageable concentrations of heavy objects washing ashore in sensitive areas such as coral reefs, where they would wreak massive damage scraping over the precious coral. Additionally the debris could start interfering with navigation in Hawaii and along the West Coast.

There is the hope that the debris will simply break up, take a wrong turn, and spare coastal areas any damage whatsoever, but the debris will not go away entirely. Even without a tsunami dragging masses of life out into the ocean, pollution and waste is often washed out to sea only to reappear again on another beach.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Image Source: Charles McCain

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