Japan Shows Commitment to Tsunami Debris Response Efforts

Eighteen months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami washed away much of the Japan coastline and took the lives of thousands of Japanese citizens, the Japan Government announced it will contribute $6 million to the Canadian and United States Governments to support tsunami debris response efforts on the U.S. West Coast. Japan feels strongly about assisting the response effort, stating that the money is a way to show their appreciation and return the help they were given by Canada and the United States during the aftermath of the deadly 2011 tsunami. The tsunami debris anticipated along the U.S. West Coast underscores the fact that ocean trash is a global problem. Regardless of origin, trash travels. The ocean is the single most common connection between countries and continents, and therefore everyone has a role to play in tsunami debris response.

Ocean Conservancy welcomes Japan’s contribution of support and assistance to the tsunami debris response effort – and just as governments are working together on the issue, so have nonprofit organizations.  For more than 20 years, Ocean Conservancy has worked closely with our partners, the Japanese Environmental Action Network, tackling preventable ocean trash.  Now, they are on the forefront for response efforts following the tsunami.    The magnitude of debris that will wash onto U.S. West coast beaches remains uncertain; therefore, the best action we can take at the moment is ensuring we are adequately prepared to handle any and all predicted debris.

It’s important to remember that debris generated from the tsunami is drastically different from the ocean trash that has plagued our ocean long before the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It is likely that over the coming months, there will be many difficult-to-collect debris items from the tsunami including housing and construction materials, fishing materials and vessels, potentially dangerous items such as combustibles, and also personal items related to the victims.  That’s why Ocean Conservancy’s upcoming International Coastal Cleanup – coming up on September 15th – is more important than ever.

Ocean Conservancy has developed a Tsunami Debris Field Guide that serves as an educational tool for those volunteers along the West Coast. The field guide highlights the most common items of debris that have been washing onto beaches in unusually large numbers compared to historical Cleanup data. We’re asking Cleanup volunteers to note any suspected tsunami debris items in the Items of Local Concern section on the International Coastal Cleanup data card, so that we can analyze these data in the months following the Cleanup and compare them with current predictions from tsunami debris models.

The Cleanup represents an international network of engaged volunteers, working together toward one goal – to tackle marine debris – and their spirit and devotion to ridding our ocean of trash has not wavered in the aftermath of the tragic Japan earthquake and tsunami.


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