Coastal beaches are experiencing an increase in marine debris, likely resulting from the March 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan and claimed nearly 16,000 lives. Tsunami debris may show up on our shores intermittently during the next several years, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predictions.

The Washington State Marine Debris Task Force – a group of state agencies led by the state Military Department’s Emergency Management Division – has established a marine debris information listserv for Washington residents and coastal visitors. We invite you to sign up for the listserv, and to invite others to do so as well. To join, please click on http://www.ecy.wa.gov/maillist.html and choose “marine/tsunami debris.”

The state agencies also have established a marine debris information web portal, hosted by the Washington Department of Ecology.

Whom to call

Download this “what to do” flier that you are welcome to print out and post or distribute. 

The Marine Debris Task Force is urging people who encounter potentially hazardous marine debris along the Washington coast to use its toll-free reporting and information line, 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278).

People who call 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278) can:
  • Report oil and hazardous items to the National Response Center and Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) by pressing “1.”
  •  Report large floating debris items that might pose a boating or navigation hazard by pressing “2.”
  • Get instructions for reporting debris that is not large or hazardous.

With options “1” and “2,” callers will be connected to a live person who can dispatch responders.

Hazardous materials to watch out for include spilled oil, drums and barrels, fuel tanks and gas cylinders, chemical totes and other containers with unknown fluids. Do not touch or attempt to move such items.

General marine debris, such as plastic bottles, Styrofoam and floats or buoys, is not considered hazardous. People are encouraged to remove and dispose of small nonhazardous debris items.

NOAA encourages beachgoers and boaters, if possible, to take photos of marine debris suspected to be from the Japanese tsunami, to note the location, and to email the information to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.  If an item appears to have sentimental value to those who owned it, NOAA requests people move the item to a safe place before emailing information.