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Are We at Risk from Japanese Tsunami Debris?
One certain threat is invasive species. Scientists from Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center confirmed the presence of dozens of species native to Japanese coastal waters — including barnacles, starfish, urchins, anemones, amphipods, worms, mussels, limpets, snails, solitary tunicates and algae — that were on a large floating dock in Japan that washed ashore at Agate Beach near Newport, Oregon in June 2012. According to researchers, the 66 foot long dock contained some 13 pounds of organisms per square foot, and an estimated 100 tons of living matter overall. While there is no evidence to date that anything from the float has established on U.S. shores, researchers fearing the worst but hoping for the best are continuing to monitor the situation.
Of course, what worries researchers more is that the dock may just be the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, in regard to what else might wash ashore.
Officials at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believe the Japanese tsunami debris has already spread over an area of the Pacific Ocean roughly three times the size of the contiguous United States. While some of the debris has already made landfall in the U.S., the bulk of it will take several more months to make it across the Pacific. Seattle-based oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who has been tracking huge gyres of trash in the ocean for two decades and runs the Beachcombers' Alert website, thinks the majority of the tsunami debris will reach U.S. shores as early as October 2012.
Pictured: A 66-foot long dock from Japan that made landfall in Oregon in June 2012. It contained an estimated 100 tons of living matter, including numerous species native to Japan but considered invasive here in th U.S. Photo credit: Wolfram Burner, courtesy Flickr.
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