Tsunami Debris

Inevitably in any disaster there is fall out, destruction and debris. in 2011 an 8.9 earthquake occurred creating a 30ft wall of water that raked over Japan, creating 25 million tons of debris, some of which entered the coastal waters. The debris that didn’t sink off shore has begun a long journey in the Pacific current system. Since this is the first tsunami of this magnitude that we are able to track, the road map that japan’s marine debris is being written as we speak. All that we have to predict its movement is taken from current and wind patterns. It is projected that with in one year, or even as soon as this winter the debris could reach the North Western Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). Within two years it could hit the northern part of the Mainland. In three to four years the debris could work its way down California, and by five years make it back to the main Hawaiian islands. These are just postulations, however it is a concern that Midway, Kure and some of the other atolls in the NWHI that are home to fragile species may be hit with an even greater inundation of marine debris. There is already huge efforts to keep the ever coming marine debris off the beaches and reefs in our National Marine Monument which is also a World Heritage Sight. NOAA keeps close tabs on what they extract from the NWHI, but it is difficult to determine the source of the debris. The best they can do is try to identify any bar codes or markings on the debris that could lead to its origin.

The main Hawaiian Islands could be a different story. Since we have 5 years till possible debris hits, we can take baseline data of the debris that is already found on the reefs and shore line. This base line data can be used to sort out what debris is frequently found here versus what is out of the ordinary. What debris is generated from the islands versus debris that possibly came from the tsunami in Japan. This is useful for testing our prediction on the pattern the tsunami debris will follow.

I have been orchestrating clean up dives off the South East side of O’ahu in hopes to raise awareness about the state of our reefs. I would like to take the debris that we extract from the reefs and record it as baseline data for O’ahu.  The windward side of the islands is where most debris hits, so I will move eastward from Portlock to various sites to get an idea of what is in our waters. I would like to get other dive outfits to join so that we can get a larger set of data around the whole island. I would also like to spread this idea to the neighboring islands and create a network. We have around five years before the tsunami debris hits, so it is feasible to get some baseline data that is representative of what is frequent on O’ahu and hopefully the other islands. Regardless if the debris hits or not, we will have begun tracking our states marine debris and start to find solutions to minimizing our contribution.

Tsunami’s will happen, just like earthquakes and other natural disasters. If we can create a protocol on environmental impact and clean up, then we can respond to the next one and reduce the negative impact it has environmentally.

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