Tsunami Debris Moving towards Hawaii and West Coast

Did you know that volunteers at Coastkeeper’s beach cleanups are collecting important information to help scientists track the impacts of the Japan tsunami?

In mid-October, the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) released that a Russian ship, the Pallada, found tsunami debris after passing the Midway Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The tsunami debris made up of wooden boards, plastic bottles, buoys from fishing nets, boots, etc., comes from the tragic tsunami that struck Japan this March. The Pallada also picked up a Japanese fishing boat that had markings indicating that the boat was from the FukushimaPrefecture, the area hardest hit by the tsunami. The Japanese Ministry of the Environment has estimated that there is a total of 25 million tons of disaster waste.  Despite this high number, not all the disaster debris will end up becoming tsunami debris as some of the waste has already been disposed of, or managed on land.

The IPRC has been working to model the tsunami debris and predicts that the debris will hit the Northern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument in a year. Within the following two years, the rest of the Hawaiian Islands may see some effects, and in three years, the debris may reach the west coast. The model predicts Oregon as an epicentre of accumluation, and its expected that San Diego will see minimal impacts on our shores. Floating marine debris will then move towards the North Pacific Gyre, where it will circulate and break down into smaller and smaller pieces. It is also predicted that in five years, the tsunami debris will make its way back to the Hawaii’s reef and beaches for a second round of accumulation. More information can be found on the NOAA marine debris website.

The tsunami debris that the Pallada encountered helps scientists at the IPRC make more accurate projections about the future course of the debris. San Diego Coastkeeper’s beach cleanup data will help track potential accumulation or increases in debris on beaches and our team will report any increases or interesting finds. While we are unsure about how much, where and when the tsunami debris will hit, rest assured that our volunteers are doing their part through prevention, removal and data collection.