Tsunami Debris Washes Up in Oregon
Trash from Japan another threat to Northwest beaches
Earth Day is every day for Oregon organizations that work to keep Northwest streams and beaches beautiful. This is not an easy task. Marine litter and debris have become serious environmental problems – not just in Oregon, but around the world.
Oregon's SOLVE is a non-profit group that organizes two yearly beach cleanups to help tackle the problem.
"About 37,000 people come out twice each year and collect approximately 25.25 tons of trash," says Briana Goodwin, Program Coordinator for SOLVE.
Goodwin explains that litter needs to be removed from the beaches in order to prevent serious environmental problems. Marine mammals, sea birds, and other marine life can mistake garbage and trash for food, which can lead to malnutrition. Birds and marine life die from strangulation by getting caught up in pieces of plastic and litter.
Marine debris has been a problem for years in Oregon, but the Japanese tsunami disaster has made things worse.
"After the tsunami disaster happened in Japan, we needed to prepare for what was washing onto the coast," Goodwin says. "We started working with many other organizations such as Surfrider Foundation, Washed Ashore, Oregon Sea grant, and Coast Watch to name a few. Some of the larger debris and hazardous litter can't be handled safely by volunteers."
In cases where the debris might be dangerous or difficult to handle, Ryan Parker is called to the job. Parker is a beach ranger, for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. He's in charge of beach debris removal year round. He also works on conservation projects including shoreline restoration. Parker removes larger items and hazardous items that shouldn't be picked up by volunteers.
|Debris with Japanese markings have washed up on the shores of Oregon in the months after the earthquake and tsunami. (Photo courtesy Jacob Schroeder)|
Hundreds of tires that have washed ashore are now piled up at the Boneyard. Parker explains that many of the tires were still in new condition, with the exception of the barnacles growing on them.
"I figure it's tsunami debris because the tire tread is brand new on a lot of these passenger tires," he says. "These are metric tire sizes, and we don't use metric system in the US. They all arrived at the same time. There were up to about 100 tires and oil drums washed ashore."
"Because they didn't have worn tread, it can be assumed that they might have come from Japan," Parker adds. "Some of the tires are also marked with Japanese brands. One of the tanks had words written only in Japanese."
But it's not just tires washing up on Oregon's shores. Other, larger pieces of tsunami debris have been found, too.
"The largest item traced back to Japan was a dock that washed ashore on the beach and is now on display as a historical artifact at the Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center in Newport, Oregon," Parker says.
After a stop at the Boneyard, Parker headed to a parking lot of the office of the Oregon State Parks where more garbage is stored. He showed this Kid Reporter foam, plastics, beverage containers, and small debris. Some of this trash had been found and removed by volunteers during the SOLVE spring clean up.
"Marine debris is a real problem in the world's oceans and no particular country is more at fault than others," Parker says. "But we all need to deal with it."
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Jacob Schroeder is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps,