Anglers, beachcombers asked to watch for transponders from Japan

Some transponders have reportedly been washing up along the WA Coast. The Pacific County Emergency Management Agency reports these floating instruments are about the size of a 2-liter soda bottle and were set in the ocean from different ports off Japan in 2011-12 after the massive Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Researchers from Tattori University for Environmental Studies in Japan have been collaborating with Oregon State University, Oregon Sea Grant, and the NOAA Marine Debris Program on the project.

Persons who find a transponder are asked to photograph it if possible, and report the location of their find to Chan at ; or to the NOAA Marine Debris Program regional coordinator in their area at . They will provide shipping instructions to persons who find the transponders so that the instruments can be returned to the research team.

More information available at:

NOAA’s “Keep the Sea Free of Debris!” art contest now open

The NOAA Marine Debris Program’s annual “Keep the Sea Free of Debris” Art Contest for grades K-8 is now open. Students can submit artwork from November 7th through December 19th.

This year, the NOAA MDP wants to know:

  • How does marine debris effect the ocean environment?
  • How will you help be part of the marine debris solution? (e.g. Lead cleanups in your community)

The winners of the contest will be featured in the 2015 marine debris calendar to help raise awareness year-round and remind us all that we can solve the marine debris problem every day.

Help us spread the word and raise awareness about marine debris by passing along the art contest information to your local schools. For a complete list of contest rules, visit and download the student entry form and art contest flyer.

Brianna V. 3rd grade, California (2013 Art Contest Winner)

Brianna V. 3rd grade, California (2013 Art Contest Winner)

NOAA awards nearly $1M for marine debris cleanup

The NOAA Marine Debris Program announced this week that it provided $967,000 through NOAA’s Restoration Center to support locally driven, community-based marine debris prevention and removal projects. Eleven groups across the country received funding to remove derelict fishing nets, litter, lumber, tires and other harmful marine debris from shorelines and coastal waters.

“Marine debris plagues coastlines all over the country, and these communities have the expertise and motivation to address it,” said Nancy Wallace, Marine Debris Program director. “We are proud to support them as they work to mitigate impacts and address the damage marine debris has caused.”

The projects typically last for 24 months and create long-term ecological improvements for coastal habitat, waterways and wildlife, including migratory fish.

The projects were chosen from a pool of 46 applications submitted by non-governmental organizations, tribes, academia and local government agencies. The combined request from all applications totaled nearly $5 million, demonstrating the widespread need to address marine debris across the country. Through this program, NOAA has funded 76 marine debris removal projects and removed more than 3,800 metric tons of marine debris from our oceans and Great Lakes since 2006.

This year’s projects include:

  • Alabama: The Dauphin Island Sea Lab will remove derelict vessels and address habitat impairment in the Dog River Watershed in Mobile.
  • Alaska: The Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation will conduct marine debris cleanups in five communities in Western Alaska and the Bering Sea: Port Heiden, Nelson Lagoon, Nikolski, St. George and Savoonga.  The Sitka Sound Science Center will perform cleanups of tsunami debris from Japan that impacted coastlines in Southeast Alaska.
  • California: The Wiyot Tribe of the Humboldt Bay region will remove large marine debris from the within bay and on Indian Island, a National Historic Landmark known for its importance as the site of the Wiyot World Renewal ceremony.
  • Florida: The Coastal Cleanup Corporation will remove plastics, glass, Styrofoam, rubber and discarded fishing gear from sea turtle nesting sites within Biscayne National Park.
  • Hawai‘i: The Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund will continue its work to remove marine debris from the shoreline of Big Island of Hawai‘i, focusing on the Ka‘u coast. The Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources will remove debris from Kaho‘olawe.
  • New York: Hofstra University will remove debris from one of the last remaining natural salt marshes in Nassau County, in collaboration with Long Beach School District and Town of Hempstead.
  • North Carolina: The North Carolina Coastal Federation will implement a pilot program working with commercial fishermen to remove derelict crab pots and repurpose them as artificial oyster reefs.
  • Puerto Rico: The Corporation for The Conservation of The San Juan Bay Estuary will remove litter from Condado Lagoon, one of two natural lagoons in Puerto Rico.
  • Washington: The Northwest Straits Foundation will continue its longstanding efforts to remove derelict fishing nets from Puget Sound and surrounding marine waters.

NOAA’s Restoration Center is now accepting applications for the next funding cycle and applications are due November 1, 2013. For more information, visit

Tsunami Debris Information

If hazardous materials wash ashore

It is possible that containers with hazardous materials may wash ashore. Don’t touch these items or try to remove them.

Instead, notify federal and state authorities. Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard will lead response efforts to remove any immediate threats to public health, safety and the environment.

Ecology handles about 3,800 reports of oil spills and hazardous material releases and threats annually – and mounts 1,200 field responses across the state every year.

To make a report, you should call both the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 and Washington Military Department Emergency Management Division (EMD) at 1-800-OILS-911 (1-800-258-5990). Both numbers are answered 24/7.

Getting word out to coastal communities

Since January 2012, representatives from NOAACoast GuardEcologyEMD, and Washington Department of Health have conducted public presentations and taken questions about the most up-to-date tsunami debris information in:

  • La Push
  • Neah Bay
  • Ocean Park
  • Ocean Shores
  • Port Angeles
  • Seaview
  • Taholah
  • Tokeland
  • Westport

Scattered debris likely along Washington outer coast

NOAA data and experience indicate the vision of a massive flotilla of debris headed for U.S. shores is unrealistic. A new NOAA modeling effort shows that some buoyant items may have reached the Pacific Northwest coast during winter 2011-2012. The bulk of the debris is likely still dispersed north of the main Hawaiian Islands and east of Midway Atoll.

Widely scattered debris may arrive intermittently along shorelines in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Alaska and California for a sustained period of time. For more information, go to NOAA’s Information and FAQs page.

Many variables affect where the debris will go and when. Items will sink, disperse, and break up along the way, and winds and ocean currents constantly change, making it very difficult to predict an exact date and location for the debris’ arrival on our shores.

NOAA is actively collecting information about tsunami debris at sea and throughout the region. Please report any sightings — with specific location and photographs if possible — to

Debris unlikely to be radioactive

Radiation experts from Washington State Department of Health believe it is highly unlikely any of the tsunami debris is radioactive. Health has continued monitoring for radioactive contamination in our environment since March 16, 2011.

If you have questions about radiation issues related to the earthquake and tsunami, please contact the Department of Health at 360-236-3300, email, or visit their website.

Coastal communities working on tsunami response plan

Local and tribal governments, state and federal agencies and community organizations are forging strategies for responding to tsunami debris that potentially could wash ashore on Washington’s beaches.

This effort is designed to help coastal communities and government entities work together to monitor and clean up shoreline debris and to guide local responses in case large, hazardous or unmanageable debris items need to be removed from coastal beaches.

The draft Washington state tsunami debris response plan will be refined in coming weeks and months.

Human remains unlikely

There is little chance human remains from Japan will arrive with the debris. However, if you do see something that concerns you, immediately call 9-1-1.

For More Information:

Printable cards: Contact Information (

Flier: What to do if you see debris (

NOAA’s Marine Debris Program (

NOAA Frequently Asked Questions (

ECOconnect blog: NOAA has best information about Japanese tsunami debris (

Ecology News Release: Statewide workshop focuses on tsunami debris response (4/25/2012)

Cantwell Applauds Ocean Shores Tsunami Debris Meeting

On March 7th, Cantwell urged the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to step up programs to analyze the potential danger of tsunami debris. During an Oceans, Fisheries, Coast Guard, and Atmosphere Subcommittee hearing, Cantwell questioned NOAA head Dr. Jane Lubchenco on the agency’s readiness to address the tsunami debris poses to Washington state’s coastal economy. President Obama’s FY13 budget proposes a 25 percent cut to NOAA’s Marine Debris Program.

Last November, Cantwell secured Senate Commerce Committee passage of an amendment to address the threat approaching tsunami debris poses to economies up and down Washington’s coastline. Cantwell’s amendment would identify the debris as a unique threat and require the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to develop an interagency action plan to help prepare our region for this potentially serious problem. Cantwell continues to fight to ensure a plan is in place to address the threat tsunami debris poses to Washington state’s coastal economy. The state’s coastal economy supports 165,000 jobs and produces $10.8 billion in economic activity each year.

After a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, an enormous amount of debris was washed out to sea. One year later, very little is known about the composition or trajectory of the debris, and there is currently no federal plan in place to address a large-scale marine debris event such as the approaching tsunami debris.

The complete text of the letter sent today to the participants at the Ocean Shores event follows:

April 25, 2012

Dear fellow Washingtonians:

I applaud regional stakeholders for coming together today to forge ahead on local tsunami debris cleanup strategies. This coordinated initiative is a step in the right direction in protecting Washington state’s coastal communities and economy.

I regret that I cannot be with you today. But please know that I am making it a priority in the U.S. Senate to ensure that coastal communities have more data and better science to track and respond to the approaching debris.

We can’t wait until tsunami debris washes ashore to come up with a plan to address it. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in Washington state depend on our healthy marine ecosystems and coastal communities.

That’s why I’ve also introduced and secured committee passage of an amendment that would require the development of an interagency plan to help prepare our region for this potentially serious problem. And I joined Alaska Senator Mark Begich in calling for additional research to ensure that Washingtonians get specific estimates of what might hit our shores – and when.

Just last month, we marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan that killed thousands and sent an enormous amount of debris out to sea.

One year later, our local agencies need additional tools and resources in order to protect Washington state’s $10.8 billion dollar coastal economy. I will continue working to ensure we have an aggressive plan in place to protect Washington coastal communities and jobs.

Thank you.


Maria Cantwell