Japan Tsunami Debris

Tsunami debris from the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan is showing up on our coastline. Some of the debris can be potentially dangerous and still other debris could be mementos of people in Japan. We hope this page of information will serve to help you understand what to do when you come across tsunami debris on our coastline.

Click Here to Download the NOAA Guide To Marine Tsunami Debris as a .PDF
Visit the Official NOAA Tsunami Debris website

A network of 32 drop-off sites on the Oregon coast are now ready to receive beach debris washing ashore from the tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. The drop-off sites are free and are a combination of state parks and independent recycling and transfer stations located in every county [Editors: see list attached at bottom of release]. Visitors and residents can call 211 (or 1-800-SAFENET) to report tsunami debris they see on the beach.

Schedules vary for the drop-off locations, and visitors are encouraged to visit http://www.oregon.gov/OPRD/PARKS/tsunami_debris.shtml for a digital map with complete detailed locations and hours, and a list of common questions and answers about tsunami debris.

The drop-off sites will accept debris in official beach cleanup bags produced by SOLVE. Beach clean-up bags are available at state park campgrounds (locations listed below and online at http://oregonstateparks.org).

* Much of the small debris is rigid foam and plastic. Don’t break up the foam. Put it in the bag, and tie it shut.

* Residents and visitors who see a piece of debris too large to fit into a bag should drag it above high tide if possible, then report the date and location.

* Beach visitors who find tires, appliances or other large objects should not attempt to bring these items to the drop-off sites on their own; report them instead.

* Debris with living organisms, should be reported (with a photo if possible, location and date) then moved above high tide or removed from the beach, bagged and delivered to a drop-off site. Never move organisms to another body of water (even at home). This will reduce the threat of invasive species.

All tsunami debris reports may be submitted by email to beach.debris@state.or.us (with the location, date and a photo if possible), or by calling 211 in Oregon coastal counties. 211 is operated by a nonprofit organization under contract with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (1-800-SAFENET is an alternate number for the same service). The 211 number can also be used to report hazardous materials on the beach–fuel drums, propane tanks, gas cans–and hazards to navigation seen offshore (such as abandoned boats and shipping containers). 211 operators will connect callers with the correct agency to complete the report. In an emergency, however, always call 911.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department expresses deep gratitude to the Oregon Marine Debris Team (SOLVE, Oregon Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Sea Reach, Washed Ashore, Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition), 211info, the Oregon Refuse and Recycling Association, and all the coast waste haulers for their immediate and helpful response to the tsunami debris problem. Oregon’s public beaches are in good hands because of Oregonians like these, and the visitors and residents who will help remove debris from state beaches.

Q: Is it possible to tell the difference between Japanese tsunami marine debris and other marine debris?

A: In most cases, it is extremely difficult to determine whether debris came from the tsunami. Items from Asia, such as buoys or litter, wash up on the U.S. Pacific coast all the time, so it’s very difficult to tell where the debris came from came from without unique identifying information. Significant changes in type and amount on a shoreline are an indicator that debris is from the tsunami. Not every item found on our shorelines is from the Japan tsunami. Marine debris is an every-day problem, especially around the Pacific.

Q: Is the debris dangerous? Should I avoid the beach?

A:The public should continue to visit and enjoy our oceans and coasts, and help keep them clean. Most marine debris is not harmful, but we do encourage beachgoers to remain aware of their surroundings and handle any debris with safety in mind. If you don’t know what it is, don’t touch it. If it appears hazardous, please contact appropriate authorities. We also encourage boaters to stay alert, especially at night, since large debris can be a hazard to navigation.

Q: What should I do if I see debris?

A: If you see small debris, like bottles, aluminum, or Styrofoam, remove the debris from the beach and recycle as much as possible. Larger, hazardous, or unmanageable debris could be a safety risk and should be left alone and reported to local authorities. Marine debris items or significant accumulations potentially related to the tsunami can be reported to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov with as much information as possible (including its location, the date and time you found it, photos and other relevant descriptions). It is important to remember that not all debris found on U.S. shorelines is from Japan or the tsunami, so please use your discretion when reporting items.

Tsunami debris from the March 11, 2011 tsunami in Japan has started arriving on the Oregon coast. This massive chunk of dock is 66 feet long, 19 feet wide and 7 feet tall. It showed up on Agate Beach near Newport on June 4, 2012.

June 7, 2012: A team of about a dozen staff and volunteers organized by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife made quick work of removing marine organisms from the dock on the sand at Agate Beach. Workers with shovels, rakes and other tools first scraped the structure clean, then briefly used low-pressure torches to sterilize the dock. The material was bagged and hauled up the beach well above the high tide line to store it temporarily.

June 7, 2012: The marine organisms removed from the Agate Beach derelict dock were buried landward from the site. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff and volunteers removed about a ton and a half of plant and animal material. Oregon Parks and Recreation Department staff and a contractor excavated a hole approximately eight feet deep far above the furthest reach of high tides and storm surges. They emptied the bags into it and filled in the hole. Since the organisms require salt water to survive, this disposal method is safe and reliable. According to officials, no further action is expected at the site until a decision is made about disposing of the dock, a decision which should be made in the next couple of days. Two basic options are under review: towing it off the beach to a nearby port or harbor, or demolishing it on site and disposing of it in a landfill.