Tag Archives: tsunami debris

The Hidden Tsunami of Debris

This is the title of a September Honolulu Weekly article by Stuart Coleman about the plastic plaguing Hawai‘i’s coasts, only some of which is from the Japan tsunami of  2011, including a large concrete dock that appeared north of Molokai. Coleman writes that most of what is left to float here is plastic, because the construction and housing debris was wood and metal and has deteriorated and sunk.

Coleman profiles Dr. Marcus Eriksen, who, since seeing the Pacific Garbage Patch with Captain Charles Moore in 2005, has made the debris that is accumulating in five different gyres in the world’s oceans his cause. He and his wife Anna Cummins formed an environmental nonprofit called the 5 Gyres Institute to try to find solutions to the problem, which threatens our health as well as the environment. Why our health? Coleman explains, “Most plastics are made with chemical additives like bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, known endocrine-disruptors that can lead to obesity, infertility, cancer and other health problems. Micro-plastics also absorb the toxic chemicals from pesticides, flame-retardants and polluted runoff. When fish and marine creatures mistake these toxic micro-plastics for food, the poison travels up to the food chain to foods we eat.”

The problem is daunting, but one solution being proposed is Extended Producer Responsibility. Explains Coleman, this policy is designed to “make companies more responsible for the life cycle of their products, from design and distribution to recapture and recycling. Eriksen argues that by promoting EPR, companies will design better, safer and less wasteful products.”

Read the full article here. And see earlier posts on marine debris by clicking on that category, or click on these links.

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Tsunami debris hits Oregon early, bringing alien species

NPR has some of the best stories on the huge dock that traveled from Japan to wash up on Agate Beach, near Newport, Oregon, 15 months after the devastating tsunami.

Here’s one from AP, which details painstaking efforts made to remove alien species that arrived with the 70-foot dock and that might gain a foothold and threaten native seaweed and shellfish. A similar story about scouring and even blowtorching the metal to remove the aliens that aired on NPR (and you can listen to it as well) has residents suggesting that the dock may attract tourists to the Newport area.

My favorite story, from All Things Considered on June 19, tells what it’s like to patrol the beach in Oregon or Washington, watching for plastic bottles with Japanese writing. The reporter, Martin Kaste, quotes Carey Morishige, Pacific Islands coordinator of NOAA’s marine debris program, who works out of Honolulu and does a very big job with a very small staff (and the North Pacific is a very big place). The best description of the dock with its hitchhiking species is by an Oregon State University biologist specializing in invasive species; he calls it “an island that had drifted across from Asia.” This metaphorical island came with real residents, however, and unwelcome ones judging by the hostility of their reception.