Today U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) issued the following statement in response to the discovery of a 50-meter fishing vessel 120 nautical miles off Queen Charlotte Island, British Columbia. Japanese local officials confirmed that the boat had originated in Japan. On its current trajectory and speed, the vessel wouldn't make landfall for approximately 50 days.
"This discovery is further proof that the U.S. government needs a comprehensive plan for coordination and response to the tsunami debris. Coastal residents need to know who is in charge of tsunami debris response -- and we need clearer answers now.
"Hundreds of thousands of jobs in Washington state depend on our healthy marine ecosystems. We can't afford to wait until more tsunami debris washes ashore to understand its potential impact on Washington state's 10.8 billion dollar coastal economy. And we can't afford to cut the NOAA marine debris program by 25 percent with no plan in place for Japanese tsunami debris.
"This 150-foot fishing vessel is the first majorWest Coast tsunami debris confirmed by Japanese officials. And now, we've learned that larger debris could reach our coastlines sooner than expected. With some debris already moving towards the West Coast, we need more data and better science to track and respond to tsunami debris."
Last November, Cantwell secured Senate Commerce Committee passage of an amendment to address the threat approaching tsunami debris poses to economies up and down Washington's coastline. Cantwell's amendment would identify the debris as a unique threat and require the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to develop an interagency action plan to help prepare our region for this potentially serious problem. Cantwell continues to fight to ensure a plan is in place to address the threat tsunami debris poses to Washington state's coastal economy. The state's coastal economy supports 165,000 jobs and produces $10.8 billion in economic activity each year.
After a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, an enormous amount of debris was washed out to sea. One year later, very little is known about the compositionor trajectory of the debris.