US Officials Scraping Sea Life From Tsunami-Wrecked Japanese Dock

Posted June 7th, 2012 at 6:20 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. authorities have ordered the Pacific coast state of Oregon to scrape barnacles, seaweed, and other sea life from a huge dock washed ashore from the March, 2011 Japanese tsunami. The dock apparently drifted nearly 9,000 kilometers across the Pacific Ocean to an Oregon beach.

Scientists say it is a very real threat that non-native species from Japan can make their way into the ecosystem.

Millions of organisms have hitched a ride on the dock, including a tiny species of crab, small starfish, and algae.

The 20-meter long dock is the biggest piece of debris washed away by last year's Japanese tsunami and cast into the Pacific Ocean to wind up on a U.S. beach. Other items include a motorcycle still inside its packing crate.

A spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dianna Parker, tells VOA that Japanese officials believe the tsunami washed five million tons of trash into the ocean. She says while about 70% sank immediately, what is left on the surface could cause problems.

“We certainly do have concerns about debris being a hazard to navigation. We think it's highly unlikely that any of the debris is radioactive.”

“But it is possible that some of the debris could be hazardous materials and we caution people to be aware, keep your eyes out and if you do see something concerning, make sure you call your local authorities.”

An abandoned Japanese fishing boat appeared off the coast of Alaska in April, more than a year after it was sent drifting aimlessly across the Pacific Ocean by the tsunami. The Coast Guard sank the vessel out of concern it would pose a significant danger to ships sailing in the area.