In thirty-two (32) years living on and beachcombing the British Columbia (BC) coast in many different areas, I still believe that the press is making a big, and false, hoopla over this.
Sure, every year debris comes on the western North American (NA) coasts in the wintertime – a lot of it from Asia (not only Japan!). This year seems to be an exceptionally good year for garbage with tides and currents working well together to bring it to the NA shores, and the debris is also supplemented by the Japanese tsunami of March 2011. Don’t panic! It has been happening every year, with or without the tsunami!
The Story from Ms. McFarling:
Harley-Davidson ( Peter Mark / Kyodo News, Associated Press / May 2, 2012 ) A rusting Harley-Davidson from Miyagi prefecture, Japan, was discovered on a remote beach in British Columbia in late April and photographed May 2.
For months, West Coast residents have been bracing for an onslaught of items drifting toward us since last spring’s tsunami in northeastern Japan, which swept apartment buildings, cars, even entire villages, into the sea.
Now we are seeing the first trickle of that debris. A ghost ship arrived in the Gulf of Alaska this spring. A rusting Harley Davidson from Miyagi prefecture was discovered on a remote beach in British Columbia. A soccer ball found on an Alaskan island and marked with a personal message was returned to its delighted teenage owner in the tsunami-devastated town of Rikuzentakata.
Like dreams — or nightmares — these wayward bits of other people’s lives bring us closer to the distant disaster. They make the world smaller. A number of groups have started projects to reunite recovered possessions with their former owners. And one beachside town in Oregon is hoping tsunami “treasure hunting” will result in increased tourism.
But now that the first unlikely items have reached us, we’re also beginning to worry: Will the debris be radioactive? Will human remains turn up? Will mountains of scrap cover our beaches? One blogger callously suggested the Japanese government should pay for the cleanup.
I lived thirty-two years on the lighthouses bordering on the Pacific Ocean. As a lighthouse keeper, I was also aware of the ocean as a living habitat that should be protected. We voluntarily reported oil spills, garbage, etc. For me it was a beautiful place, but I saw what man could do to the oceans in just a short period.
One prime example which I will never forget was back in the 1970s when I was at Quatsino lighthouse (aka Kains Island) where a mining firm near Port Alice was given government permission to dump mine tailings five (5) kilometers off the coast.
If the weather was bad, they only went as far as the entrance to the sound, maybe one (1) kilometer, and dumped their barge-load of rock garbage.
My crystal clear fishing water around the lighthouse turned from 40 foot visibility to a murky brown colour with a visibility of about one (1) foot because of the tailings.
The oceans are not a garbage dump! Please watch Chris Jordan’s trailer video below and then read the news articles.
The Robert C. Seamans, a tall ship owned and operated by Sea Education Association (SEA) will leave port October 3, 2012, on a research expedition. The journey is dedicated to examining the effects of plastic marine debris in the ocean ecosystem, including debris generated by the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
October 02, 2012 – Plastics at sea – North Pacific Expedition
An area of plastic debris was first observed in the North Atlantic Ocean in the early 1970s, but in recent years, a similar area of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean has received the most media attention. Sea Education Association (SEA) has been studying both debris fields – in the North Atlantic for the past 25 years, and in the North Pacific the past eight. Click here…
Yet the biggest contamination problem in the Pacific Ocean existed long before the 2011 tsunami. It’s summed up in that word from The Graduate: “Plastics.”
Mary Crowley, founder of the Ocean Voyages Institute, a U.S.-based environmental group, says the tsunami debris poses a significant risk to the ocean, but it pales in comparison with the vast amount of debris already floating in the ocean. Most of that debris is plastic and most of it comes from this side of the Pacific.
Marine litter a growing problem, but cleanup plans are in the works
The tall ship Kaisei, seen here docked in Richmond after several weeks of tracking debris and gathering research on the Great Pacific Patch and the Japanese tsunami. The findings will be presented at the Richmond Maritime Festival Aug. 10-12. (Courtesy of City of Richmond)
Trash falls out of a full garbage bin on Seventh Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, July 24, 2012. According to New York City environmental protection commissioner, there is a chance that trash laying in the city’s streets could end up on New York’s beaches. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
June 12, 2012 – Kaisei sets sail for Steveston’s Ships to Shore festival Kaisei, a Japanese name roughly interpreted as “Ocean Planet,” has served as the iconic vessel behind research expeditions of Project Kaisei, a group that formed in 2008 to stem the flow of plastic and marine debris into the Pacific Ocean.
The 29-year-old student is still in shock that her mentor, Canada’s only marine mammal toxicologist at the Institute of Ocean Sciences on Vancouver Island, is losing his job as the federal government cuts almost all employees who monitor ocean pollution across Canada.
Although the Japan Tsunami has created unprecedented amounts of ocean trash, marine debris from foreign and domestic sources has been washing up on the Alaskan coast for a long time. Most of this debris is caused by human choices. The solution to the global problem of marine debris is changing our habits and the way we dispose of our waste, and the first step towards that solution is creating an awareness of the problem.
Tiny pieces of plastic contaminate almost every sea in the world. Now scientists have found that marine creatures like fish and birds are eating this microscopic waste, which may be harming their health.
The next time you go to the beach and pick up a piece up something from the sand, think of the story of how it arrived there. Is it something lost from the local town, or something that has drifted for years to arrive here just for you?
Kuroshio Current (upper left)
Early in the 1900’s – commercial Japanese crab fishermen began replacing wooden and cork floats on their fishing nets with free blown glass floats. When the nets broke loose or were lost, the net rotted and the glass balls floated free from their nets and drifted across the Pacific, along with much other debris, on the Kuroshio Current (also known as the Black Stream or Japanese Current). This is a north-flowing ocean current on the west side of the North Pacific Ocean and it is part of the North Pacific ocean gyre1.
1910 – PRESENT – Every year the Kuroshio Current brings material from Asia to North American shores – floats, shoes, boats, wood, bottles, cans, etc. – garbage! Continue reading →
In my years on the lights there was always talk of finding a glass ball. The inside lights such as my first one at Pulteney Point did not have too much chance of stopping a floating glass ball because of the strong tides.
My first outside light [not sheltered by land] was Quatsino but with only one beach at the back of the island and all the rest rocky it was nigh on impossible. Pachena wasn’t much better and we weren’t there long enough to hit the beaches around the area. Green Island was like Pulteney but we did find one or two there sitting in the pools.
So a real outside light was needed, and one was waiting!
Our 14 ft. Zodiac with stowable sail - photo John Coldwell
We moved to McInnes Island in 1977 and in the next couple of years we outfitted a fourteen (14) foot (4.27 m) Zodiac with a 25 HP Evinrude outboard with which we could go beachcombing. The children were still young then (see photo left) so a lot of the beachcombing was done alone with not much luck. Oh, I found a couple but nothing big. Then a friend came up and he found a larger one – about 12 inches (30.5 cms) in diameter along with a couple of small ones. Continue reading →