Today Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA-23) applauded the announcement of a $50,000 federal grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the state of California to support removal efforts of marine debris resulting from the March 2011 Japanese tsunami. Capps is also encouraging Central Coast residents and small businesses to report significant marine debris to local authorities or NOAA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our coastline is a vital part of our local economy, allowing for the transportation of goods and services and attracting tourists from all over the world," said Congresswoman Capps. "That's why it's critical that California, and all Western states, have a plan and the resources necessary to clean up the increased volume of marine debris resulting from the tsunami and earthquake in Japan. I would encourage Central Coast residents to report significant marine debris sightings to our local authorities or directly to NOAA to help assist in the cleanup efforts."
We continue to actively work with the states and other Federal agencies to address the challenges associated with tsunami debris," noted Nancy Wallace, director of NOAA's marine debris program. "We are pleased to be able to contribute funds to support states' efforts to respond to and remove marine debris, including disposal fees, cleanup supplies, and dumpster rentals. We remain dedicated to continuing our work with the states and others to address contingency planning, monitoring and research."
NOAA and its Federal agency partners have been actively assisting the West Coast states in planning how to handle above normal amounts of marine debris resulting from the Japanese tragedy. Federal partnership efforts also include collecting and sharing data, assessing the debris, and mitigating risk to navigational safety.
The Government of Japan estimated that the tsunami swept about 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean and that about 70 percent sank shortly after. The remaining 1.5 million tons dispersed far across the North Pacific Ocean in an area of the North Pacific Ocean roughly three times the size of the lower 48 states. Modeling indicates that the bulk of the debris is scattered and may continue to disperse north of the Main Hawaiian Islands and east of Midway Atoll. A portion of the debris has already begun to reach U.S. and Canadian shores, and more is expected to continue over the next several years.
In addition to supporting state planning, NOAA has established a public email reporting system for suspected pieces of tsunami debris. As marine debris is an on-going problem, it can be difficult to determine the source of debris without unique identifying information, and NOAA is working with the Japanese government to identify such items when possible. As of July 12, NOAA has received 529 reports, of which 10 have been confirmed as originating from the tsunami event.