Debris landing on Alaskan shores quadruples over last year

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The Gulf of Alaska Keeper, a non-profit organization dedicated to maintain the cleanliness of Alaskan shores released its report of their cleanup activities this spring.  The report showed that waste has already increased over 4 times what it was last year, and polystyrene foam had surged to between 9 to 39 times, compared to last year.

Japanese officials have released estimates showing that approximately five million tons of debris has been swept out into the Pacific Ocean.   That debris is now spread out from Alaska to Mexico, and has officials concerned about invasive species and toxic materials that could also be carried with the debris.

Japanese officials reported 4 large docks missing after the March 11th tsunami, one was able to be retained, one washed up in Oregon, but two still remain unaccounted for, drifting in the Pacific.

The cleanup is especially difficult in Alaska because of the remoteness of areas like Montague Island and the expense required to transport volunteers and equipment to the remote islands.  Plastic foam, balls, shoes, and other marine debris now litters the beaches, it must collected, bagged, and then hauled out of remote locations by foot or by boat.  On Montague Island, in Prince William Sound, volunteers spent two weeks cleaning up approximately 40 tons of debris which had largely appeared in the span of a few days.

“This is a slow-rolling disaster,” said Julie Hasquet, a spokeswoman for the office of Senator Mark Begich of Alaska.

“Significant changes in type and amount on a shoreline are an indicator that debris is from the tsunami,” NOAA says on its tsunami debris website.  Officials have warned that debris tsunami could continue to pound the west coast for the next 4 years, and it doesn’t take very long for the accumulation to have a drastic effect in irreparable ways.

Perhaps one of the worst problems to deal with, is the invasive species hitching a ride across the Pacific, how can they possibly locate and dispose them all?

Source: Homer Alaska News

Source: NHK

Source: New York Times

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