Thursday, June 6, 2013

Heavy storms bring debris onshore in Pacific Northwest

Turns out,  being in Romania isn't especially conducive to blogging about marine debris on the Oregon coast.  Never fear, I have had some excellent information and photos submitted to me while I was gone.

Those of you on the west coast the last couple of weeks know that the weather was well, terrible.  Heavy gail-force winds pushed rain and storms inshore, along with a host of other floating objects. A number of these objects happened to be marine debris from the Japan tsunamis.  Reports of wood and metal debris- clearly construction debris from Japan, including parts of buildings and ships- are washing up heavily along beaches.  This debris is being heavily overlooked, as it does not contain writing or recognizable characters, but is just as much a relic of the 2011 disaster as anything.

Wood and construction materials are a very large component of tsunami debris that is washing up on shores in North America. [Photo:]

Wood coming from the tsunami often has a number of characteristics that can aid in identification. One of the largest indicators of tsunami debris is that it will often be low in the tidal zone- i.e. below the 'high tide' zone on the beach.  This can help differentiate tsunami debris from the multitude of other driftwood on the beach.  Older wood will be high up, above the high tide line, while newer wood- much of which is likely tsunami debris- will be freshly-washed up.

Secondly, construction debris generally shows man-made cuts and grooves, while tree-related wood will simply look rounded and unworked.

Lastly, a major identifying factor of tsunami wood or metal pieces are the species present- giant red or pink barnacles (Megabalanus rosa), pelagic gooseneck barnacles (Lepas anatifera), and a heavy coating of dark brown mussels are all signs that the debris may be tsunami-related.  In addition, many of these species are potentially invasive, and therefore of interest to marine scientists.  Consider taking a photo of the debris, submitting it via our webform, and letting us know where the item is.

Pelagic gooseneck barnacles.  These pumpkin seed shaped-barnacles are easily identifiable, and often heavily coat objects.

If the item appears to be dangerous or culturally important, please report it by dialing 211 in Oregon, or 1-855-WACOAST in Washington State. 

Are other objects still washing up?  Absolutely.  Check out these photos that were shared with me by Jeremiah Psiropoulos, of Coos Bay, Oregon (You may remember Jeremiah's interview in an earlier post).

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