What to do if you find tsunami debris covered in marine life

What to do if you find tsunami debris covered in marine life
A close-up of marine life found on a derelict Japanese dock that washed up on Agate Beach. Credit: OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center.

NEWPORT, Ore.— Debris from the March 2011 tsunami that struck Japan is starting to reach Oregon’s coast.

Some of it may carry invasive species that could pose a serious threat to Oregon’s marine environment and native species.

There are a number of things that Oregonians can do to help, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department responds to debris on beaches, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife leads the response to invasive species in coordination with the Oregon Invasive Species Council, Oregon State University and other partners. 

The groups want Oregonians to know the best ways to respond to debris, especially debris that has living organisms on it. 

If you find marine debris that has living organisms attached:
Take a photo, if possible, and send photo along with details (location, county, date found, description of item, what you did with the item) to beach.debris@state.or.us and kvalnews@kval.com. This information will be shared with the marine debris response team and invasive species experts to determine what action needs to be taken.

If you are able to move the item, then please do your part. Help us clean up the debris and dispose of it as follows:

If you find small marine debris items—with or without living organisms – dispose of them in a garbage can off the beach or a landfill. If you are too far from a disposal site, remove the item from the water and place on dry land (above the high tide line) so that any organisms living on it will die and not be returned to the ocean.

If you find debris that is too large to remove: Report it and its location to Oregon Parks and Recreation Department via email, beach.debris@state.or.us 

Never move debris with organisms on it to other bodies of water, like an aquarium, pond or estuary. It increases the risk that invasive species will spread.

OPRD and ODFW staff also remind Oregonians that:

A lot of marine debris that washes ashore is not from the tsunami:
Marine debris arrives on Oregon’s shore every day from around the Pacific. Accumulation and disposal of marine debris is an on-going management issue for OPRD

Not all marine debris carries invasive species nor does it pose a risk: Much of the marine debris that arrives onshore every day has living organisms on it; many of these organisms are native to the open ocean and do not pose a threat to our coastal environment. The items related to the Japan tsunami that are most likely to carry invasive species are those that were floating in Japan’s waters for extended periods of time before the tsunami—docks, buoys, barges and boats, for example.