Rafting Across the Pacific: Invasive Species Coming to North America with Debris from the Japan Tsunami.

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Home / Rafting Across the Pacific: Invasive Species Coming to North America with Debris from the Japan Tsunami.
Dock In Olympic National Park

The dock in Olympic National Park has exposed Styrofoam – not good for the environment. Photo courtesy WA Department of Fish and Wildlife.

By early January, experts had found between 30 and 50 plant and animal species on the dock, native to Japan but not the US, including algae, seaweed, mussels, and barnacles. Unfortunately, it’s hard to predict which species will become invasive in a new ecosystem, and it’s also impossible to tell if any of these species have made a new home here.

Working with the Japanese government, agencies confirmed that the dock did come from Japan—from the Aomori Prefecture—and was washed into the ocean after the March 2011 earthquake. It has been partially dismantled, and cleaned with a mild disinfectant; Washington State has solicited bids from qualified companies to remove the dock from the sanctuary.

Japan Debris: Beachcombers Wanted

The amount of marine debris reported on beaches in Washington state rose in early 2012, likely because of increased debris from the Japan tsunami. Most of this debris was small; Styrofoam, plastic and such, but there were also small appliances and pallets. More tsunami debris is expected to continue to wash ashore over the next several years.

The relevant government agencies are working together to identify and investigate tsunami debris as it shows up. If you’re in the habit of walking along a Pacific coast beach, keep an eye out – but be careful, as hazardous waste does show up from time to time.

You can find out more about what to do when you find marine debris from local officials, or at the website for the Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Joint Information Center.

Resources

Agnarsson, I. and G. Binford. Island Biogeography(2012). Accessed Jan 24, 2013.

Ebbesmeyer, C. Epitaph Seeds from Hurricane Mitch. (1999). Accessed Jan 24, 2013.

Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Joint Information Center. Bringing you accurate information all in one place. (2012). Accessed Jan 22, 2013.

Kelleher, J. Huge raft of Japan tsunami debris floats toward Hawaii(2011). Accessed Jan 22, 2013.

NOAA. Marine Debris(2011). Accessed Jan 24, 2013.

Washington Department of Ecology. Tsunami/Marine debris on Washington beaches(2012). Accessed Jan 22, 2013.

Washington Department of Ecology. Incident: Forks Dock in Olympic National Park. (2012). Accessed Jan 22, 2013.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Tsunami Debris. (2012). Accessed Jan 22, 2013.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Aquatic Invasive Species. (2012). Accessed Jan 22, 2013.

Washington Sea Grant. A Guide to Least-Wanted Aquatic Organisms of the Pacific Northwest: Aquatic Invasive Species(2001). Accessed Jan 22, 2013.

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