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Home » Archives » July 2012 » On Reporting Marine Debris

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07/06/2012: "On Reporting Marine Debris"


OLYMPIA -- The state has announcing a new toll-free reporting and information line for citizens who spot marine debris on Washington beaches.

Beachgoers are encouraged to call 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278) to report marine debris.

As always, for small debris items such as Styrofoam, plastic bottles or small appliances, trhey are encouraged to remove and dispose of it.

If an item appears to have sentimental value to those who owned it, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requests people move the item to a safe place and email the information to disasterdebreis@noaa.gov.

People who call 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278) can:

. Report oil and hazardous items to the National Response Center and Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) by pressing "1."
. Report large floating debris items that might pose a boating or navigation hazard by pressing "2."
. Get instructions for reporting debris that is not large or hazardous.

Coastal beaches are experiencing an increase in marine debris, likely resulting from the March 11, 2011, tsunami that devastated Japan, claiming nearly 16,000 lives.

According to NOAA, a portion of the tsunami debris that washed into the Pacific Ocean has been arriving on U.S. and Canadian shores, including Washington.

NOAA predicts tsunami debris will show up on our shores intermittently during the next several years. However, it is unknown where and what types of debris might arrive.

NOAA encourages beachgoers and boaters, if possible, to take photos of marine debris suspected to be from the Japanese tsunami, to note the location, and to email the information to disasterdebreis@noaa.gov.


As of July 2, the federal agency had received 569 total reports of potential tsunami debris both along West Coast shorelines and from sightings at sea - including 43 from Washington during the past two weeks. Of the overall total, 10 have been confirmed as tsunami debris items including a 20-foot fiberglass boat that washed ashore at Cape Disappointment State Park near Ilwaco on Friday, June 15.

Items from Asia, including buoys or consumer plastics, regularly wash up on the Washington coast. It is difficult to tell the origin of ocean debris without unique identifying information, such as an individual or company name or boat identification number.

Staying safe on July Fourth

During Fourth of July holiday, Ecology urges people to remember the mantra, "Leave it better than you found it."

Laurie Davies, who manages Ecology's Waste 2 Resources Program said: "Enjoying our beaches is an important part of our quality of life in Washington - especially during summer holidays. Volunteer beach cleanups on July 5 have been a tradition for many years - removing litter and fireworks left behind on our beaches. This year, more than ever, it's important to remember the 'leave it better than you found it' concept because of the increase in marine debris we are experiencing."

Any marine debris that appears to be oiled or contain hazardous materials such as fuel containers and tanks, chemical storage totes, gas cylinders and drums should be immediately reported to protect public health and the environment by calling1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278) and pressing "1." More information is at www.ecy.wa.gov/reportaproblem.html.

Play it safe. If something looks suspicious, don't touch it. These include any 10-inch aluminum insecticide canisters from grain freighters frequently found in high tide zones along the coast. These canisters can contain small amounts of toxic phosphine gas. More at: www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/incidents/ocean_shores/3-08%20Fumicates%20sign2.pdf.

Stage agencies have other cautions and reminders for beachgoers:

. Boaters are advised that hard-to-see floating objects have been reported in Washington's coastal waters.

. You may see more wood than usual on our beaches. Don't burn driftwood. Salt residue from ocean waters stays in pores of the wood, even after it's dry. When burned, the chlorine reacts with the wood to form toxic chlorine compounds that are released in the smoke. If a beach fire is permitted, bring seasoned, non-driftwood, and enjoy.

. Stripping the beach of its driftwood depletes needed coastal habitat. The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission asks people who want to clean debris from beaches to focus on small, non-natural items such as Styrofoam and plastic. Leave wood and kelp because these are an important part of the beach ecosystem.

. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife expects that finding marine debris with invasive species will be rare. They likely will be found only on large, common marine structures such as boats, docks, navigation aids and breakwaters - all of which will likely require heavy equipment to remove. People will probably find organisms attached on smaller debris items - sometimes in heavy accumulations - but these will be common open ocean species such as gooseneck barnacles.

More about tsunami debris
. Widely scattered debris has been arriving intermittently along Pacific Northwest shorelines. For more information, go to http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/japanfaqs.html#FAQs.
. NOAA is actively collecting information about tsunami debris and asks the public to report debris sightings to disasterdebris@noaa.gov.
. Washington Department of Health believes it is highly unlikely any tsunami debris is radioactive. Go to www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/EmergencyPreparednessandResponse/FukushimaUpdate/TsunamiDebrisFAQ.aspx

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