The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) Region 9 and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) continue to collaborate with Federal, State and local partners as well as external stakeholders to assess and monitor the movement of the Japan tsunami marine debris (JTMD). In addition to continued monitoring of potential impacts on Midway Atoll and the other Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), recent efforts have focused on monitoring/detection strategies to minimize any impacts along the U.S. West Coast, British Columbia and Alaska. One derelict vessel traced back to the tsunami was sighted off the coast of British Columbia the third week of March. The fishing trawler, 164 foot Ryou-Un Maru, from Hokkaido, Japan, was deemed a navigation hazard and sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard on April 5 in 6,000 feet of water in the Gulf of Alaska, about 180 miles west of the southeast Alaska coast.
- US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) continues systematic shoreline monitoring and removal of debris on Sand and Eastern Islands on Midway Atoll every 28 days. No debris attributable to the Japan tsunami has been sighted thus far in these areas.
- NOAA continues work to obtain high-resolution satellite imagery capable of detecting possible tsunami debris in the open ocean. The efforts have been focused in the areas north of the Hawaiian Islands.
- NOAA refined its modeling forecasts of the movement of the marine debris generated by the tsunami to include a range of possible windage effects on the debris. The greater the exposed area of an object above the water surface, the greater the wind influence on that object and its velocity through the water.
- Volunteer beach cleanup and response protocols are expected to be finalized this month and will be distributed to first responders throughout CA. They will also be shared with Hawaii, US EPA Region 10 States (Oregon, Washington, Alaska), and with British Columbia. These protocols were developed as a result of a February 14 meeting between Federal, CA State and local agencies held at the California Emergency Management Agencies (Cal EMA) State Operations Center to begin the process of interagency coordination and preparation for potential impacts of the JTMD which has begun to arrive on the West Coast of North America. In March, US EPA developed a draft tsunami debris contamination assessment protocol which was sent to CA State agencies for review. CA State agencies also helped develop protocols for volunteer beach cleanups and for response notification.
- Cal EMA has developed and continues to maintain a Joint Information Center (JIC) website, which is a “one stop shop” information portal related to JTMD. NOAA, US EPA, CA, HI, OR, WA, AK and British Columbia all participated in the JIC website development and contribute to maintaining updated information and content.
- NOAA, USCG, US EPA, USFWS, US Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service and US Navy provided a briefing on the status of the JTMD, its potential impacts on the Hawaiian Islands, and the roles and authorities of each federal agency to the Hawaii State Legislature on April 18. This briefing was arranged by Representative Ken Ito’s office with assistance from Senator Inouye’s office.
For more information:
The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) can provide information to individuals or groups interested in undertaking shoreline monitoring studies for Japan tsunami marine debris. Effective monitoring of changes in environmental conditions, such as the abundance of marine debris, requires a good deal of forethought. For more information or to request a copy of the NOAA MDP Shoreline Survey Field Guide visit
NOAA Japan Tsunami Debris FAQ’s
EPA Region 9 Marine Debris
JTMD Joint Information Center Website