Tons of trash
Debris from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 continues to accumulate on Hawaii’s shores, including oyster buoys, refrigerators, driftwood and a 28-foot fishing boat. On March 2, at the Honolulu Festival, environmental and government speakers representing Japan and the United States held a debris symposium. “The type of support we’ve found here in Hawaii is something we will be talking about for the rest of our lives,” said Tsuyoshi Saito, former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan.
There are 1.5 million tons of tsunami debris floating in the Pacific Ocean, said Takashi Mori, director of Japan’s Office of Marine Environment. By calculating wind speed and ocean currents, Mori presented a simulation model that predicted most of the debris will reach the coasts of Hawaii over the next few months.
So what can we expect? Mori said the biggest category of debris will be driftwood and lumber, as many homes in Japan are still made from wood. “Fixed fishing nets and aquaculture facilities will arrive first,” he said. Larger items like buoys and cargo containers will also be discovered first, as they are more noticeable.
“Radioactive contamination is highly unlikely,” said Gary Gill, Deputy Director of Hawaii’s Environmental Health Administration. The tsunami sucked debris into the ocean before the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant disaster, which occurred in a different area of Japan. In Hawaii, the debris has been monitored since April 2011, and no unsafe levels of radioactivity contamination have been discovered.
Of more concern is the threat of potentially invasive species that attach themselves to the debris. Jono Blodgett, aquatic invasive species research supervisor from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, emphasized the importance of public cooperation, saying we should report all debris and keep any organisms safe on shore for inspection.