Debris from the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami that occurred near Sendai, Japan more than one year ago is finally making its way to the Pacific Northwest. The first piece of debris is expected to land on the West Coast within the next two months. Officials anticipate a Japanese fishing boat floating approximately 120 nautical miles off of the coast will make landfall in British Columbia soon. It is estimated up to two million tons of tsunami debris is still floating in the Pacific Ocean and anywhere between one and five percent is expected to land along the North American coastline.
Although it is unclear exactly what sort of wreckage is headed to North America, the tsunami debris headed for the West Coast may include boats, appliances, fishing nets, lumber, and even Japanese homes. According to experts, debris from the disaster was previously not expected to reach the United States and Canada until at least March 2013. Ocean currents, however, have spread the debris out along more than 3,000 miles and the trajectory is no longer clear. In September 2011, several appliances were spotted floating in the ocean near Hawaii.
Senator Maria Cantwell has stated the debris has the potential to cause major damage to the State of Washington’s fragile coastal ecosystem. She believes the United States government should prepare a plan for a coordinated regional response to the wreckage.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is currently leading the effort to collect data and assess the risks posed by the debris to coastal communities. NOAA has asked ships operating in the Pacific Ocean to assist the agency in gathering tsunami debris data. The agency has also requested that all vessels operating in the area submit photos and observations related to floating debris. Reports stating no wreckage was observed are also welcome.
According to Ruth Yender, a tsunami debris coordinator at NOAA, it is unlikely the Japanese tsunami debris will pose a radiation concern because the floating wreckage originated along Japan’s northeastern coastline and the nation’s Fukushima power plant did not melt down until after the tsunami washed most of the debris out to sea. Some experts believe fishing-related tsunami debris may have a detrimental effect on wildlife living along the West Coast of North America.
It is nearly impossible to list the wide variety of potential threats seamen may encounter while on board a ship or other vessel. Crewmembers who are hurt at sea are protected by a different body of law than employees who are injured on land. If you or a loved one was injured or killed while working offshore, or if you believe you have another maritime personal injury claim, it is a good idea to contact a qualified maritime lawyer as soon as possible after the incident.
At Anderson, Connell & Carey, our Bellingham maritime injury attorneys have more than 25 years of experience helping individuals achieve fair compensation for their maritime personal injury claims. With offices conveniently located in Seattle, Bellingham, and Portland, Oregon, our hardworking attorneys are nearby to answer your questions and assist you with filing your claim. To speak with a skilled maritime injury attorney, contact Anderson, Connell & Carey through our website or call us today at (800) 262-8529.
Ship Owner Cannot Limit Liability Where Passenger Slips on Ramp-MLC Fishing, Inc. v. Velez, Washington Maritime Injury Lawyer Blog, February 16, 2012
Dutch Harbor Clinic Denies T.V. Access, Washington Maritime Injury Lawyer Blog, February 6, 2012
Industry Vessels Urged to Report Tsunami Marine Debris, World Ocean Council Press Release dated March 5, 2012