Marine debris generated from the March 11th tsunami is drastically different from the ocean trash that was already plaguing our ocean. Over the coming months, there may be many difficult-to-collect debris items from the tsunami such as housing and construction materials, fishing gear and vessels. We could also find potentially dangerous items such as combustibles, as well as personal items related to the victims. Therefore, it is critical that volunteers and beachcombers document each item of debris they encounter on beaches with the highest level of scrutiny.
To assist with this effort, Ocean Conservancy created a Tsunami Debris Field Guide that highlights the most common debris items that are washing onto West Coast beaches in significantly higher numbers than in previous years. Content for the field guide was informed by our database of Cleanup data, NOAA, the California Coastal Commission and International Coastal Cleanup West Coast State Coordinators.
The field guide is NOT intended to forecast the arrival of tsunami debris and it’s imperative to remember that debris from foreign countries regularly washes onto U.S. West Coast beaches, so Asian characters on debris alone do not confirm it originated during the tsunami. The field guide provides Cleanup volunteers an educational tool so they can identify potential tsunami debris while sauntering West Coast beaches. International Coastal Cleanup participants have been using the field guide during the International Coastal Cleanup, noting any suspected tsunami debris items in the Items of Local Concern section on the Cleanup data card. These data will be analyzed in the months following the Cleanup and compared with tsunami debris model predictions. There are also protocols for handling and reporting suspected tsunami debris on the field guide.
The Tsunami Debris Field Guide can be found at Ocean Conservancy’s Tsunami Debris Action Center, along with other information about tsunami debris, what to do if you’ve found suspected tsunami debris, and how to differentiate tsunami debris from ocean trash. You can also enter your email address below to sign up to receive tsunami debris updates as new information becomes available:
If you see a significant debris sighting, please send a photo and as much information as possible to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.