West Coast Leaders Announce Joint Response to Japanese Tsunami Debris


For Immediate Release
2012IGR0004-000287March 13, 2012

Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat
Office of the Premier of British Columbia
Offices of the Governors of California, Oregon and Washington

West Coast Leaders announce joint response to Japanese tsunami debris

Leaders agree to develop a joint communication strategy, share safety protocols for volunteers, and work with the Japanese government

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Premier of British Columbia and the governors of Oregon, Washington and California have announced that they will collaborate to manage potential marine debris from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that may wash up along the West Coast.

The leaders and representatives met at the annual Leaders Forum of the Pacific Coast Collaborative in Vancouver, British Columbia and have agreed to work together by:

  • Developing a joint communication strategy, in co-operation with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to ensure information is portrayed clearly and accurately.
  • Sharing safety protocols and training for volunteers who participate in beach clean-ups.
  • Working with federal agencies, and the Japanese government to establish protocols for the identification and management of any particularly sensitive items that wash ashore.

By working collaboratively to address the Japanese tsunami debris that may wash ashore along the West Coast, the four jurisdictions seek to improve efficiency, create uniform messages about Japanese tsunami debris and reduce duplication in the work.

Developing a joint plan (and attached) that includes guidelines for shoreline clean-up by volunteers will ensure a streamlined response to the debris within these coastal areas, and volunteers who may find Japanese tsunami debris, along with other debris they clean up, will know how to handle the debris in a safe and respectful manner.

In 2006, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington signed an agreement to address priority ocean health-related issues, including the problem of marine debris.

In February 2010, the three governors and the Premier of British Columbia signed a Pacific Coast Collaborative Action Plan on Ocean Conservation and Coastal Climate Adaptation.

The Pacific Coast Collaborative was established by memorandum in 2008, signed by the governors of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, and the Premier of British Columbia. The collaborative was formed to work as a group on shared regional concerns such as energy, transportation, and ocean health.

Learn More:

The joint work plan and this press release are available at http://www.pacificcoastcollaborative.org/Pages/ThirdAnnualLeadersForum.aspx

Joint Information Center: Collaborative online portal of public information and education resources from the Province of British Columbia, the States of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii, and U.S. federal agencies NOAA and U.S. EPA: https://disasterdebris.wordpress.com/

NOAA Japan Tsunami Blog:


Washington Department of Ecology: http://ecologywa.blogspot.com/search/label/tsunami%20debris

British Columbia Ministry of Environment:



A backgrounder follows.


Province of British Columbia:Robert Pauliszyn

Government Communications and Public Engagement

250 213-5096


State of Washington:Karina Shagren


Office of the Governor

360 902-4136


State of Oregon:Tim Raphael


Office of the Governor

503 689-6117

State of California:Richard Stapler


California Natural Resources Agency

916 549-9630


For Immediate Release
2012IGR0004-000287March 13, 2012

Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat
Office of the Premier of British Columbia
Offices of the Governors of California, Oregon and Washington

Information on West Coast Japanese tsunami debris

On March 11, 2011, a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan killing and injuring tens of thousands of people. This tragic event damaged and destroyed buildings, causing debris to enter the ocean. The estimated total amount of Japanese tsunami debris on land is 25 million tons. The tsunami debris floating in the Pacific Ocean is a fraction of the total amount, but there is currently no estimate of how much it is.

Computer models run independently by NOAA and University of Hawaii researchers predict some debris could gradually reach the U.S. West Coast, Alaska and Canada throughout 2013 and circle back to the main Hawaiian Islands in 2014.

Experts believe it is extremely unlikely any of the Japanese tsunami debris will be radioactive because the nuclear plants were damaged well after the debris was swept into the ocean. Debris was swept away along hundreds of miles of Japanese coast, as well as the specific area near Fukushima.

If anyone believes they have found any Japanese tsunami debris, they can report it to NOAA at: disasterdebris@NOAA.com.

There is little chance any human remains will arrive as debris on the Pacific Coast. Anyone who finds possible human remains, however, should call 9-1-1.

Oil and hazardous materials including cylinders, containers and barrels should be reported to 1-800-OILS-911. In Canada, contact the Provincial Emergency Coordination Centre at 1-800-663-3456.

Most of the debris sank right away and the rest dispersed far across the Pacific Ocean. Highly buoyant materials such as floats and other fishing gear, lumber, plastic items of different types, drums, and possibly vessels may still be floating in the Pacific Ocean.

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