Japan Tsunami Debris Update

Sherry Lippiatt, Ph.D.
California Regional Coordinator
NOAA Marine Debris Program / IMSG
Office of Response and Restoration
Matthew Thompson
Seattle PMO

Floating Dock

One of the Misawa docks floating off of Hawaii.

More than three years have passed since the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan, killing thousands and devastating coastal communities. The NOAA Marine Debris Program continues to request at-sea and shoreline reports of suspected Japan tsunami marine debris (JTMD) to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov; reports should include the date/time, location, description of the item, and photos. To date, NOAA has received more than 1,500 reports of suspected JTMD.

Recent reports of Japanese skiffs came from a NOAA field team at Pearl and Hermes Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in October 2014:
http://marinedebrisblog.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/marine-debris-divers-find-potential-tsunami-debris-in-pearl-and-hermes-atoll/ .
For the latest updates on observed Japan tsunami marine debris please visit: http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris.

Large objects that remain floating at sea are an on-going concern. Four docks were washed out from the city of Misawa Japan on 3/11/11 one washed ashore in Oregon in June 2012 and a second washed ashore in Washington in December 2012. The other two are still unaccounted for.

Researchers from Tattori University in Japan have released a number of transponders enclosed in 2-liter bottles in order to gather data on debris drift patterns. The transponders include instructions for how to contact the researchers if one is found. More information and a photo of the instrument can be found at: http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2014/sep/anglers-beachcombers-asked-keep-eye-out-transponders-japan. Please keep an eye out for these items.

Survey forms have been distributed by the Seattle Port Meteorological Office to ships visiting the ports of Washington and Oregon that travel from Japan on their routes. This cooperative effort is to recruit more ships to send information to NOAA on any debris that is spotted along shipping routes between Japan and the west coast of the United States. Reporting forms can be found here:


An upside down skiff found at Pearl and Hermes Atoll in October 2014 (photos courtesy NOAA MDP)

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