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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Tsunami Debris Workgroup Bulletin 

January 2012

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) Region 9 and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) continue to collaborate with Federal and State partners as well as external stakeholders to assess and monitor the movement of the Japan tsunami marine debris. Because computer models predicted that debris may begin impacting Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge now (January/February 2012), our recent efforts have focused on monitoring strategies in the vicinity of Midway and the other Northwestern Hawaiian Islands including the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Recent Activities:

  • NOAA, US EPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) collaborated with the US Coast Guard (USCG) on a routine law enforcement flight over the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). US EPA, NOAA and USFWS each sent observers on the USCG flight in January to concurrently look for any marine debris in the area northwest of Midway Atoll. No debris was sighted by the observers. Again, the models predict that the debris may find its way back around from the West Coast to the Islands in 2014.
  • US EPA is continuing discussions with the US Navy regarding possible assistance with debris sightings in other parts of the NWHIs as well as the main Hawaiian Islands and along the West Coast of the U.S. mainland.
  • USFWS is continuing systematic shoreline monitoring and removal of debris on Sand and Eastern Islands on Midway Atoll as well as Tern Island in French Frigate Shoals.
    USFWS continues to collect marine debris deposition data from Tern Island in French Frigate Shoals.
  • The State of Hawaii continues shoreline marine debris monitoring on Kure Atoll.
  • NOAA continues working to obtain high-resolution satellite imagery of marine debris in the open ocean in areas where models have predicted Japan tsunami marine debris may be. Results of the first area of imagery review, roughly north of Kure Atoll, revealed no noticeable marine debris. NOAA has convened a subject-matter expert group in ocean modeling to refine the area in the North Pacific where the debris front would be expected. Representatives from various agencies and institutions with potentially applicable models are part of this group.
  • NOAA has developed an assessment and response framework for all regions potentially impacted by Japan tsunami marine debris. The framework is currently focused on the NWHIs and includes various subject matter expert (SME) groups. The first workshop to discuss Japan tsunami marine debris across the Hawaiian archipelago was held in Honolulu on January 19 and brought experts together to develop contingency plans. Representatives from 40 management and response agencies and organizations across Hawaii including US EPA, USFWS and USCG, as well as Hawaii State and county agencies and academia participated in the workshop.
  • US EPA and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) are hosting a California Statewide Japan tsunami marine debris planning meeting on February 14 to share information with State and county agencies on what is known about the Japan tsunami marine debris as it heads toward the West Coast and to assist the agencies with contingency planning. NOAA, USCG, Department of the Interior (DOI) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are invited to attend as well.

Report sightings of potential Japan tsunami marine debris. Please send information and photos to: disasterdebris@noaa.gov

For More Information

The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) can provide information to individuals or groups interested in undertaking shoreline monitoring studies for Japan tsunami marine debris. Effective monitoring of changes in environmental conditions, such as the abundance of marine debris, requires a good deal of forethought. For more information or to request a copy of the NOAA MDP Shoreline Survey Field Guide visit NOAA's Marine Debris website.

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