NASA: Japan Tsunami Debris Soon to Invade U.S. Shores, On eBay Now

Written by Tom Ewing

A mountain of debris — more than 1.5 million tons of the debris resulting from the tragic March 2011 tsunami that struck Japan and other Pacific Rim nations — is steadily making its way across the Pacific Ocean.

It will, say NASA reps, eventually wash up in great amounts on North American beaches. Sooner than you think.

It’s alarming. Even more alarming — or bizarre is a better word, perhaps — is that auctioneers on eBay are at the ready.

The debris, which by comparison weighs more than 8,000 747 aircraft, scattered over an area roughly 1,000 miles by 2,000 miles, according to the NASA, one of the government agencies tracking the debris.

Debris from the tsunami has already landed on North American beaches, true. But this vanguard is a mere trickle of what will eventually land on beaches, primarily in the Pacific Northwest, experts say. Consider.

In April, the US Coast Guard sank a Japanese fishing vessel that had traveled unmanned across the Pacific to reach British Columbia.

A concrete dock washed up on an Oregon beach in June.

State park officials removed some two tons of plants and animals from the dock, including two extremely invasive species. Now they have paid a contractor nearly $85K U.S. to destroy and remove the dock.

A crated Harley-Davidson motorcycle washed up on a beach in British Columbia in April and was traced to its still-living owner in Japan.

The bike has since been donated to the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, WI, as a memorial to the 15,000 victims of the tsunami and the earthquake that caused it.

Oregon and Washington, among other states, are already working out what to do with all the debris that will eventually hit its beaches.  In late June, Oregon Governor Kitzhaber established a tsunami debris task force and Washington has undertaken similar measures.  Because the debris has become so dispersed, it will not all make landfall at the same time, but the debris that doesn’t sink will eventually wash up on a beach some place.

Oregon has identified four categories of tsunami debris:

1. Litter and other typical marine debris. For instance, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, buoys, Styrofoam.

2. Derelict vessel or other large debris item, such as shipping containers and boats gone adrift.

3. Personal possessions lost in the tragedy.

4. Hazardous materials, such as oil or chemical drums, gas cans and propane tanks.

What will eventually happen to the debris floating across the Pacific from Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquake?  Much of the flotsam and jetsam will probably end up in a landfill or recycling center.

But how much of it will be collected as a reminder of the largest earthquake to strike Japan in 1,500 years?

How much of the debris will end up on eBay?  Already, eBay auctions offer two trawl net mooring balls and a red light bulb that reportedly left Japan during the tsunami.

The Japanese government estimates that the tsunami swept about 5 million tons of debris into the ocean, but that 70 percent sank off shore.

Marine debris items or significant accumulations potentially related to the tsunami can be reported to Officials ask you include as much information as possible about its location when found, photos, descriptions and the date and time you found it.

Remember that not all debris found on U.S. shorelines is from Japan or the tsunami. We at hope you’ll use your discretion when reporting items. This was a mind-boggling tragedy — auctioneers will surely profit. As profiteers will. Bad taste?

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