The 8.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan’s northeast coast in March 2011 was the most powerful known to ever have hit the country.
The subsequent tsunami caused the majority of the damage, however, washing out colossal amounts of garbage and debris into our oceans.
Tsunami debris has already started to land along the west coast of North America. Although it is unknown exactly when, where, and how much debris will wash up over time, it carries with it potentially devastating effects, such as damaging delicate aquatic ecosystems, introducing invasive species, and polluting waterways.
There were initial reports of a debris field, but by now ocean currents will have broken it up into smaller, separate pieces of debris. It is unlikely that any debris washing up on B.C. shores will pose a significant environmental or public health risk. In general, report debris that can be attributed to the Japanese
tsunami to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.
Be safe: If you don’t know what it is, don’t touch it. If the item appears to pose an immediate life safety risk, call 911 or your local police. If the items appears to be hazardous but does not pose an immediate risk, report it to the provincial spill reporting line provided under Hazardous materials.
Hazardous materials: As the tsunami washed material out to sea before nuclear safety concerns emerged, it is highly unlikely that any items would have been exposed to radiation. In the event that potentially hazardous items such as drums, fuel tanks and containers, gas cans, gas cylinders, or chemical storage totes wash ashore, do not touch or attempt to move the item.
Ten-inch aluminum insecticide canisters may also be found in high
tide zones. Do not open the cap since these fumigant canisters may contain small amounts of toxic gas. Call B.C.’s spill reporting line at 1-800-663-3456 with a detailed report of what you’ve observed.
Litter and other typical marine debris: Where it’s safe and practical to do so, consider removing litter and recycling any plastics or metals. Removal of large items or personal possessions should be done only in consultation with land managers or responsible agencies. If items can be directly linked to the Japanese tsunami, report them to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov with as much detail as possible.
Personal effects or possessions from the Japanese tsunami: Items that appear to be personal belongings related to the Japanese tsunami should be treated with respect. Report them to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov with as much detail as possible. If it is safe to do so, consider moving the object to a safe location and include this location in the e-mail report.
Derelict vessel, equipment or cargo from a vessel: Report it to Transport Canada at 604-775-8867 or by e-mail to email@example.com. Do not attempt to move or remove the boat or cargo.
Human remains: It is extremely unlikely any human remains from the tsunami will reach Canada. However, if you encounter any remains, immediately call 911 or your local police and give authorities a detailed report about what you observed. Do not touch or attempt to move.
— B.C. Ministry of Environment