Japan’s Foreign Ministry announced their decision to offer a $5 million donation to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda informed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the plan during a meeting in September on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. The US government plans to use the money for disposal, detection and the monitoring of debris.
Large volumes of debris have washed ashore along the US west coast and the Pacific Islands. In June, a floating pier from Japan’s Aomori Prefecture arrived ashore in Oregon. US state authorities are mainly responsible for removing the waste.
“Marine debris is an ongoing problem, especially around the Pacific,” NOAA spokesman Keeley Belva told GlobalPost. “It can damage marine habitats and entangle wildlife, it can become a navigational hazard for vessels, and can be an eyesore on our beaches.”
Recent estimates show the potential for over 1.5 million tons of debris to make its way to North America, easily overshadowing the pittance from Japan. Oceanographers have been supposing one-third might hit Hawaii, one-third get caught up in the Great Garbage Patch, and one-third journey on to the U.S. coast. Depending on ocean and wind currents, large quantities of debris could wash ashore as early as this winter, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In Washington state, one expert has warned that a floating field of debris measuring about 2,000 miles in length and 500 miles from north to south now lies just 400 miles from the coast.
In Hawaii, Kamilo Beach on the southern tip of Hawaii’s Big Island has long been a dumping ground for debris sent by ocean currents — an estimated 20 tons wash ashore each year. The tsunami debris is expected to dramatically add to the impacts to the beach and wildlife, from seabirds to fish.
In Canada, a new smartphone app developed in Victoria will enable people to help track debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan as it gets within sight of B.C.’s shores.
“It’s designed for somebody who’s walking their dog or kayaking — a casual user — who can very quickly see something on the beach, take the picture and report it,” Software specialist Murray Leslie told CBC News.
Source: Global Post