The great tsunami that followed the March 2011 earthquake in Japan may have created, in one event, the single greatest garbage problem the Pacific Ocean has ever seen. The 9-meter wave that swept into northeast Japan in 2011 took with it some five million tons of rubbish into the sea, 1.5 million tons of which, according to official estimates, is plastic, timber, fishing nets, shipping containers, industrial scrap and a huge number of other objects that are floating into the ocean.
This is the problem that marine experts are now analyzing and investigating, as they say that the floating trash will significantly add to the Pacific’s already mounting pollution issue. The trash will float on for possibly decades, and these buoyant items will continue to be a hazard for shipping, a risk for sea animals, and may have brought with them invasive micro-species that can affect the aquatic population in still undiscovered ways. Robin de Bois, who is part of a French environmental group that is studying the problem, said that the tsunami effectively dumped 3,200 times the normal amount of trash from Japan that is dumped annually into the Pacific. Just the plastic rubbish is equivalent to decades of waste that amass in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans
Studies are also looking into where the trash might eventually end up. Early last year, the first of the debris – foam and buoys – started to wash up on shores of the east coast of North America. They were soon followed by other items that spoke more about the disaster on the other side of the Pacific. These included motorbikes, a football with the owner’s name on it, a big ship with no crew, and two huge concrete docks on styrofoam floats. The docks actually originated from the fishing port of Misawa in Aomori prefecture. These massive concrete blocks washed up in Oregon and Washington eight months apart.
According to Sherry Lippiatt, regional coordinator in California for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris program, the debris is no longer in one giant mass but has already spread out across the immense North Pacific Ocean. The somewhat scary truth is that no one knows exactly where or how much of the debris is still out there.
[ via My Sinchew ]
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