EPA Partners With Federal Agencies to Track Japanese Tsunami Debris

EPA and NOAA begin monthly Tsunami Debris Bulletin

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will issue a monthly bulletin to keep key stakeholders informed about tsunami debris activities, an effort resulting from an EPA-lead marine debris workshop held in June in Honolulu.

The workshop, part of the regular Oceania Regional Response Team (ORRT) meeting, explored options for a coordinated response to the tsunami debris. The ORRT, comprising federal, state and U.S. territory agencies, has an area of responsibility that includes Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.  

Follow-up meetings resulted in a coordinated strategy for reporting of debris sightings. An advisory was issued to U.S. flag vessels at the end of September by the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration requesting voluntary reporting of significant debris sightings in the open ocean to better characterize the extent and nature of the debris field.

“EPA and NOAA's efforts with our federal and state partners will paint a clearer picture of the amount of debris that may be floating on the ocean,” EPA Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest Jared Blumenfeld said. “The federal government needs to be prepared to take action if tsunami debris poses navigational hazards or washes up on our shores.”

In March 2011, the Japanese tsunami released debris estimated to be in the millions of tons into the Pacific Ocean. University of Hawaii scientists have developed computer models that predict debris from the tsunami could potentially reach Hawaii by March 2012 and the U.S. West Coast by March 2013.


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