Author Archives: solvewithcalvin

Where Are We Now? Tsunami Debris Three Years Later

By: Nancy Wallace, Marine Debris Program Director

On these major commemorative days, we’re often asked the big questions. “What is happening with the debris?” and “Was this what you expected?” Here’s what we know:

Debris from the tsunami is still washing ashore in the United States, but the amount is less than what we saw in previous years. Its arrival is widely scattered and unpredictable, in terms of what, when, and where, as it has been since the first piece of confirmed debris – a 170-foot squid vessel – showed up off the coast of British Columbia in March 2012.

We expect this pattern to continue, until the debris eventually blends in with the marine debris that plagues our ocean every day. The remaining tsunami debris is not in a mass, so the dispersed items could swirl around with currents for years before reaching land. Or, they could sink, as much of it has likely already done.
Over the past several years, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and British Columbia have all seen varying amounts and types of debris gradually wash ashore. In some cases, near-identical pieces of debris washed up in different states months apart. NOAA has received nearly 2,000 debris reports to our email address, and as of today, we have confirmed 41 of those items to be tsunami debris, including vessels, buoys, sports balls, signs, canisters, floating piers, and a motorcycle in a shipping container. While there is likely much more tsunami debris out there, it’s very difficult to tell where debris comes from without unique identifying information. If a piece of debris is suspected to be from the tsunami, NOAA works with the Japanese government to identify these items if possible.

As to whether or not this is what we expected, it’s safe to say yes – for the most part. I wrote two years ago, when we were first faced with this unprecedented situation, that we believed highly buoyant items would be the most likely to survive a trip across the ocean. That’s what we have seen. Since we did not know exactly what those items were or where they were, we prepared for all scenarios along with our state partners.

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Rapid Response Help Needed!

OMDT Seeks Volunteers to Clean Up Broken Dock near Lighthouse Beach

Large pieces of a broken dock washed ashore near Lighthouse Beach around January 6th. Due to the recent storms and weathering, the dock has begun to break up into thousands of pieces of polystyrene foam which have spread across the beach, from Cape Arago to Bastendorff Beach. Volunteers are needed every day to help pick up the debris as it poses a significant threat to wildlife. Volunteers will work with the Coos Bay Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and OPRD on this effort.

If you would like to help, please contact:
Scott Gregory
Surfrider Coos Bay Chapter

Volunteers will be directed where to pick up supplies and where to dump the debris. Contact Scott if you have any questions.



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The Oregon Marine Debris Team is seeking volunteer groups to participate in a community grants program which will support monitoring for marine debris. Up to 10 local groups (either existing organizations or teams that unite for this effort) will be awarded $500 to assist them in regularly monitoring and submitting reports on marine debris that washes up at selected sites.

Click here to download the application form

The project is part of an ongoing research program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Participating groups will employ a “protocol” developed by NOAA to gather data and the types and amounts of marine debris reaching the shore. Monitoring sites are 100 meters (about 325 feet) long, and are selected according to specific criteria. Surveys must be done regularly on a monthly basis. The information collected, using NOAA’s method, is then uploaded onto a website.

Specific sites should fall within areas chosen for the study. A map of the potential areas can be found at: OMDT Marine Debris Monitoring Areas 2013

Areas include:

  • Area 1- Columbia south jetty to Camp Rilea
  • Area 2- Arch Cape to Nehalem Spit
  • Area 3- Nestucca mouth to Salmon River Spit
  • Area 4- Government Point to Yaquina Head
  • Site 5- Muriel O. Ponsler*
  • Area 6-Siuslaw south jetty to Horsfall Beach
  • Area 7- Bastendorff Beach to Seven Devils Wayside 
  • Site 8- Port Orford*
  • Site 9- Gold Beach*
  • Area 10- Hooskenaden Creek to Rainbow Rock

*Community groups are already engaged in monitoring using the NOAA protocol at sites 5, 8 and 9.

Within each area, preference will be given to proposals for more remote areas with less human traffic and where it is less likely that litter will be picked up between monitoring sessions.

No prior experience is necessary. Training and support will be provided by the Oregon Marine Debris Team (OMDT), a partnership among four non-profit organizations—Surfrider, SOLVE, Washed Ashore and the CoastWatch program of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition—with the cooperation of Oregon Sea Grant.

The OMDT was organized to cope with the threat of debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, and has a volunteer-based program in place to survey for and clean up tsunami debris. But the partner groups also intend to work together to address the larger, long-term problem of marine debris. There is little scientific data on how much and what types of marine debris washes up on Oregon’s shoreline. The new research project will collect “baseline data” on debris accumulations in Oregon, part of a national study funded by NOAA.

Community grants, intended to help volunteers cover costs of transportation and equipment such as bags, measuring tape, or marker flags, require a commitment to monitor a site consistently for two years, reporting the data according to the NOAA protocol. Recipient groups will also be required to send 1-3 members to a training workshop to learn about the monitoring techniques and link up with other groups involved with marine debris monitoring.

For information, contact Fawn Custer ( – 541-270-0027) or go to the OMDT website,

Click here to download the application form

The Japanese Tsunami: Before, During and After, September 11th and 12th.

Lecture and Slideshow presentation Event—The Japanese Tsunami: Before, During and After, September 11th and 12th.
Survivors of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake describe their personal experiences and responses to the disaster. Tanaka Kensaku, a native of Japan will give two talks and slideshow presentations on the tsunami and its continuing effects, which has special relevance for anyone living in the coastal tsunami zone. Further information about this program is available through Jeneé Pearce, with the City of Cannon Beach and SOLVE, at 503-436-9292 and Jeneé

Cannon Beach City Hall
163 E. Gower St., CB
Council Chambers
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
@ 4:00 p.m.

The Seaside Public Library
1131 Broadway St, Seaside, OR
In the Community Room
Thursday, September 12th
@ 6:00 p.m.

Coastwatch hosts Netarts Spit cleanup Saturday

“Volunteers are invited to pitch in to help remove marine debris from Netarts Spit. Debris is accumulating on the spit, particularly on the bay side. The CoastWatch program of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition is sponsoring a cleanup this Saturday, Aug. 24, beginning at noon.”

Read More about this cleanup here

“For information, contact Fawn Custer at (541) 270-0027, The organizers are hoping to find a second boat owner willing to help ferry volunteers across to the spit. If able to assist with this, contact Fawn Custer.”

Washed Away: Japanese Tsunami Debris

“All eyes were on the backpack. The principal of Takata High School and a secretary both watched curiously as I pulled the bag onto the table.
They’d been told I had something to share. But weren’t sure what.

It had to be important. We’d come all the way from Portland, Oregon and a Japanese TV crew happened to be there as well.


Credit to for picture

Credit to for picture

As I opened the backpack and pulled out a brightly colored ball, the principal started to smile. He had a nervous giggle as he grabbed the ball to take a closer look. He turned it looking for a name. And there he found it in Japanese writing: ‘Takata High School.'”

Read more on this story and others like it here!

Oregon Parks and Recreation putting up new signs regarding ocean beach fires

“A small beach bonfire can be fun, but people who burn pallets or construction lumber instead of natural wood leave dangerous litter hidden in the sand
Credit: OPRD

Credit: OPRD

On Oregon’s ocean shore, fires must:

•   Use natural, untreated wood.

•   Be 3 feet by 3 feet’ or smaller, unless you have a permit from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

•   Be drowned out with water — not buried — when finished.

New signs are going up at entry points to the Oregon ocean shore to remind visitors of these common sense rules.

Some areas of the southern Oregon coast are under fire restrictions and beach fires are currently banned. Check the park you plan to visit at to check on restrictions before you travel.”

PNCA Field Course Opportunity

Interventions for Coastal Debris, Aug 5 – 9

More Info here: PNCA Continuing Education

This workshop examines micro plastics and invasive species (resulting from the 2011 Tohoku tsunami and North Pacific gyre) along the Oregon coast. Students will explore ocean current models and predict micro plastic and invasive species landfall by developing a probability index and sample beaches for micro plastics, tsunami debris and invasives to test the index. All information will be mapped into a GIS system. Students will work with coastal geomorphologists, oceanographers and citizens groups to examine and design prevention, mitigation and clean-up systems for coastal ecosystems, particularly beaches.

Aug 05, 2013 – Aug 09, 2013
9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Tuition: $300.00 + Dept/Lab Fee: $150.00

Instructor: Don Harker has 30 years of experience in the private, government and nonprofit sectors and has a national reputation for innovative leadership. He worked in Kentucky state government for more than 10 years as director of the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, director of the Kentucky Division of Water and director of the Kentucky Division of Waste Management. He initiated the Kentucky Water Watch program, which is now 20 years old ( Don co-founded and served as board treasurer of the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust and is active with local groups in Oregon working on forest issues. He consults with Sustainable Northwest and communities throughout the US on sustainable development. He has coauthored several books, including the Landscape Restoration Handbook and Where We Live: A Citizen’s Guide to Conducting a Community. Environmental Inventory. Don holds a MS in Biology from the University of Notre Dame.

For more information about the workshop:
PNCA Continuing Education
or contact Don Harker,

It’s Everybody’s Ocean Kickstarter!

Atsuko Quirk, a documentary director, has created a kickstarter  about residents of one of the southernmost islands in Japan called Ikema Island. They are struggling with marine debris – plastic trash- coming from all over Asia.

Watch the kickstarter video here

So far over $8,000 has been pledged as of this posting, with still a few days left to go!

Marine Debris Clearing House

“Today, the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) is launching the Marine Debris Clearinghouse, an online resource for the rapidly growing marine debris community to discover, explore, and apply knowledge in marine debris research and operations. This resource will benefit the nation’s coastal managers, researchers, policy makers, educators, industry, and communities studying to mitigate marine debris and its impacts.”

Read more here