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Boat Brought To Honokohau Harbor By Fisherman Is Potentially Japan Tsunami Marine Debris

A Kona fisherman has retrieved what could be the sixth confirmed item of Japan tsunami marine debris in Hawaii.

Honokohau Harbor

Honokohau Harbor

Yesterday afternoon, Randy Llanes, Kona captain of the fishing vessel Sundowner, brought to Honokohau small boat harbor, a 24-foot Japanese net boat with a deep “V” bow that was found floating about 4 miles out at sea. Other vessels reportedly had been fishing around it that morning, since fish are attracted to the marine growth and the protection a boat provides.

Llanes contacted the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) marine debris call-in line at (808) 587-0400 and kept in touch with Hawaii District Boating Manager, Nancy Murphy, to coordinate his arrival Tuesday afternoon at Honokohau.

DLNR immediately notified the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program and kept the program informed at all times. NOAA in turn notified its U.S. Coast Guard and National Parks Service contacts. The state Department of Health has been contacted regarding a testing for radiation levels.

While still at sea, Llanes spoke by phone with DLNR’s aquatic invasive species specialist, Jonathan Blodgett, who determined that Llanes had already scraped off blue mussels, an alien species in Hawaii, well out at sea, leaving only typical gooseneck barnacles that are common pelagic species and not harmful to native marine species.

Llanes told DLNR officials the skiff appeared identical to the four other small boats that have arrived in Hawaii waters since October 2012. He said he found it upside down and flipped it over.

As was done with the other four boats, NOAA will work with the Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu and Government of Japan on determination of the vessel’s origin and owner, if possible.

“On behalf of NOAA and the State of Hawaii, we ask that anyone who finds personal items, which may have come from the tsunami, to please report them to county, state and/or federal officials,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson. “Please show aloha and respect to the people of Japan, and the regions that suffered devastation from the 2011 tsunami. Remember, these items may be all someone has left.”

By being able to communicate with this boater in advance of his arrival, DLNR was able to quickly provide important guidance to prevent introduction of possible invasive marine species to island waters, and to ensure the skiff was met on arrival and properly handled and stored pending ownership verification.

DLNR recommends that boaters, fishers and coastal users view online guidelines for reporting and handling marine debris, including possible Japan tsunami marine debris (JTMD). They can be found on DLNR’s updated website at www.hawaii.gov/dlnr.

 

Boat Recovered From Kahana Bay Shoreline Could Be Japan Tsunami Marine Debris

An open boat recovered from the shoreline of Kahana Bay, Oahu, may be the next piece to be verified as Japan tsunami marine debris, pending confirmation by the Government of Japan, with assistance by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Consulate-General of Japan in Honolulu.

A boat found in Kahana Bay may be Tsunami debris

Pieces of a boat found in Kahana Bay may be Tsunami debris

The approximately 20-foot boat was reportedly seen floating whole on Thursday, November 29 in Kahana Bay. By Friday afternoon when it was officially reported, it had broken up into pieces on rocks on the northward outer edge of the bay. Staff from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) the State’s lead agency for marine debris responses, were able to retrieve pieces of the boat from the rocks and bring them ashore on Saturday.

Further investigations by DLNR today in the ocean near where the boat had washed up on to the rocks recovered more pieces of the broken boat. Identification information found on the various pieces include Japanese characters (kanji) on a section of the bow, and Japanese registration numbers from pieces of the stern. The NOAA Marine Debris Program in Hawai‘i is working with the Japan Consulate on confirmation of the boat’s origin.

DLNR and NOAA will make a followup announcement if this item is confirmed. If it is confirmed, it will be the fourth confirmed tsunami marine debris item for Hawaii and the 17th overall for the U.S. and Canada. (Currently, there are 16 confirmed JTMD for US and Canada.)

Identification of the boat’s origin may also help with the identification of two species of mussels collected by DLNR staff that were attached to the boat as biofouling. The mussels could be a species that is present along the Japan coastline and is not currently known to be present in Hawai‘i.

Specimens were turned over to NOAA for further identification by Bishop Museum and possible genetic identification.

Search for Tsunami Debris! Beach Clean-Ups Announced

Here is a good opportunity to search for any Tsunami debris that may have washed up on Hawaii’s shores:

Tsunami Marine Debris Dock Goes Missing Off the Coast of Hawaii

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the state’s lead agency for responding to reported possible Japan tsunami marine debris in Hawaii, is coordinating with NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard to identify the current location of a 30 by 50-foot floating dock that was last seen on Wednesday, Sept. 19, by fishermen off the north coast of Molokai.

This dock was photographed by fisherman off the coast of Molokai on September 19th and now the DLNR is looking for it.

The dock is believed to be identical to three others reported missing from Japan after the March 2011 tsunami. Another one recently came ashore on an Oregon beach earlier this year.

This dock washed up on Oregon’s shores

”DLNR’s priority, with the critical help of the public and federal partners, is to re-find this large floating object, which is a hazard to vessels at sea and the wellbeing of our coastal resources. We need to be able to track its movement to try to intercept and handle the dock at sea, and to prevent serious environmental damage if it should reach shore,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson.

DLNR has requested that boaters, fishers and pilots be alert to the possible presence of the dock and to immediately report any sightings of the dock to (808) 587-0400. NOAA is also requesting that sightings of marine debris be reported to diasterdebris@noaa.gov.

The Japan Consulate in Honolulu has been notified and, if the dock is relocated, will work with DLNR and NOAA to confirm the dock’s origin.

DLNR and the Department of Health (with assistance as needed from other state agencies) along with NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S .Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working together on the Hawaii response to marine debris from the 2011 Japan earthquake and resulting tsunami. The  interagency working group is coordinating with various federal, state and county partners, as appropriate, to facilitate response and regularly communicate to the public. NOAA continues to assist with model trajectories for possible movement of the dock by currents and winds, and has readied two satellite tracking buoys for state use should the dock be located.

On Tuesday, DLNR received a call from a Molokai resident who reported seeing styrofoam on a rocky cliff shoreline on the Molokai north coast. DLNR arranged for its Maui helicopter contractor to survey the north shores of Molokai and Lanai yesterday afternoon. Two staff members from the Division of Aquatic Resources Maui office participated as observers. A large quantity of foam pieces were noticed west of Moomomi and a ball of fishing debris. However there was no sighting of the dock in either location.

DLNR also received a report yesterday from a Laie resident who had found two large and one smaller black buoy on a local beach. There was no marine growth on them. The buoys were tested by the Department of Health and normal background levels of radiation were found.

HOW TO REPORT FINDINGS OF POSSIBLE TSUNAMI MARINE DEBRIS:

The public is invited to contact DLNR at (808) 587-0400 to report findings of possible tsunami marine debris. If possible, we request that a picture of the debris with a detailed description of the object, date found, location and finder’s contact information, be sent to dlnr@hawaii.gov this information will help DLNR staff to determine if a more thorough investigation is necessary. Reports may also made to NOAA at DiasasterDebris@noaa.gov DisasterDebris@noaa.gov

DLNR staff also checked out a large piece of yellow foam that was reported in Kahaluu earlier this week. It measured 4 inches wide by 4 feet long, with chicken wire molded between. It had a small amount of gooseneck barnacles (not of concern) on one side, but no other growth. There were no identifying marks and it did not look to be tsunami generated.

Other actions to locate the floating dock Between September 21 and 22, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted three flights where Coast Guard aircrews were able to observe the area between Molokai and Oahu for any sign of marine debris. No sightings were reported, and the dock has not yet been relocated. The Coast Guard also used a search and rescue computer program to plot the potential drift of the object using the last reported sighting of the dock from local fishermen on September 19.

The Coast Guard has systems in place to report significant objects and other hazards in the water through the issuance of notice to mariners. A broadcast notice to mariners has been issued that contains a description of the floating dock, the time and date it was sighted and the last known location. Cmdr. Martin Smith, chief of marine environmental response for the 14th Coast Guard District said, “The Coast Guard would like to remind mariners, as always, to remain on the lookout for debris or any other dangers while at sea.”

In conjunction with routine Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane law enforcement deployments and surveillance patrols of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine Monument, the Coast Guard has been on the lookout for marine debris in an attempt to help NOAA identify and track it.

On December 6, 2011, one such flight provided surveillance of a 58,000 square mile area off Midway; an area approximately the size of the state of Alabama. A small refrigerator was sighted, but nothing else.

On January 17, 2012, a second Hercules, with observers from NOAA and EPA aboard, provided surveillance covering 78,700 square miles; an area approximating the size of the state of North Dakota.No debris whatsoever was sighted.

Both of these flights were conducted in an area of the highest risk/probability of forecast debris  approaching the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, using University of Hawaii and NOAA drift modeling data. Routine law enforcement patrols continue to provide opportunities to search for marine debris.

The state is also collaborating with the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument as well as external stakeholders to assess and monitor the movement of other Japan tsunami marine debris. The Japan Ministry of the Environment estimates that 5 million tons of debris washed into the ocean (not the 25 million tons according to initial estimates). They further estimated that 70 percent of debris sank near the coast of Japan soon after the tsunami. Models and estimates completed by NOAA and the University of Hawai‘i reveal that some high-floating debris may have passed near or washed ashore on the Main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as early as this summer.  During the summer, debris was found along the Pacific Coast of North America from Alaska southward to California.

Because most tsunami debris was washed out to sea before the release of radioactive materials from the power plant and because of its extended exposure to the elements, it is highly unlikely that the debris would be contaminated.

Even though the likelihood of discovering radioactive contamination on marine debris is low, the state Department of Health has been conducting shoreline surveillance since April 2011, in order to establish normal background radiation levels around the islands. The state Department of Health continues to conduct quarterly shoreline environmental surveys on O‘ahu, Maui. Kaua‘i, and the Hawai‘i Island.

Results of the surveys performed displays consistency with normal background radiation levels.

Additionally, the state Department of Health has partnered with NOAA to perform shoreline and debris monitoring on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Japan Tsunami – “Debris Fields are No Longer Visible”

Tracking marine debris from the Japanese tsunami

Debris from the tsunami that devastated Japan in March could reach the United States as early as this winter, according to predictions by NOAA scientists. However, they warn there is still a large amount of uncertainty over exactly what is still floating, where it’s located, where it will go, and when it will arrive. Responders now have a challenging, if not impossible situation on their hands: How do you deal with debris that could now impact U.S. shores, but is difficult to find?

[youtube=http://youtu.be/G1EVZmqYNcE]

Federal agencies join forces

To learn more about the tsunami debris, NOAA researchers have been working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other partners to coordinate data collection activities.

NOAA and its partners are also coordinating an interagency assessment and response plan to address the wide-range of potential scenarios and threats posed by the debris.

“We’re preparing for the best and worst case scenarios — and everything in between,” says Nancy Wallace, director for NOAA’s Marine Debris Program.

As the tsunami surge receded, it washed much of what was in the coastal inundation zone into the ocean. Boats, pieces of smashed buildings, appliances, and plastic, metal, and rubber objects of all shapes and sizes washed into the water — either sinking near the shore or floating out to sea. The refuse formed large debris fields captured by satellite imagery and aerial photos of the coastal waters.

The Japanese government estimated that the tsunami generated 25 million tons of rubble, but there is no clear understanding of exactly how much debris was swept into the water nor what remained afloat.

What remains of the debris?

Nine months later, debris fields are no longer visible. Winds and ocean currents scattered items in the massive North Pacific Ocean to the point where debris is no longer visible from satellite. Vessels regularly traveling the North Pacific have reported very few sightings. Only two pieces have been clearly linked to the tsunami.

NOAA is coordinating new interagency reporting and monitoring efforts that will provide critical information on the location of the marine debris generated by the tsunami. Ships can now report significant at-sea debris sightings and individuals or groups can request shoreline monitoring guides at DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.

Where is it?

Computer models run by NOAA and University of Hawaii researchers show some debris could pass near or wash ashore in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument) as early as this winter, approach the West Coast of the United States and Canada in 2013, and circle back to the main Hawaiian Islands in 2014 through 2016.

Researchers caution that models are only predictions based on location of debris when it went into the water, combined with historical ocean currents and wind speeds.

Conditions in the ocean constantly change, and items can sink, break down, and disperse across a huge area. Because it is not known what remains in the water column nor where, scientists can’t determine with certainty if any debris will wash ashore.

Worst- and Best-case Scenarios

The worst-case scenario is boats and unmanageable concentrations of other heavy objects could wash ashore in sensitive areas, damage coral reefs, or interfere with navigation in Hawaii and along the U.S. West Coast. Best case? The debris will break up, disperse and eventually degrade, sparing coastal areas.

Debris will not go away completely, even in a best-case scenario. Marine debris is an ongoing problem for Hawaii and West Coast states, where garbage and other harmful items regularly wash up on beaches, reefs and other coastal areas.

What else is NOAA doing?

NOAA has convened experts to review available data and information from models and provide their perspectives on debris fate and transport. They are gathering information on significant sighting of marine debris in the North Pacific through NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operation’s Pacific fleet, the NOAA Voluntary Observing Ship Program, which includes industry long-haul transport vessels, as well as the NOAA Pacific Island Regional Observer Program and their work with the Hawaii longline fishing industry. NOAA is also working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Hawaii on shoreline debris monitoring in the Papahānaumokuākea Monument.