NOAA: "There is no solid mass of debris from Japan heading to the United States"
credit: Los Angeles Times
A slew of news reports have been published this past month alleging that a "Texas sized" field of debris is making its way to the shores of California. The debris field, caused by the 2011 Japanese tsunami, is on some accounts, said to be toxic but other reports suggest otherwise. At the time of the tsunami, the debris field contained 5 million tons of debris from Japan, but now? Who knows how much has sank, how much has broken up, or - perhaps - how much has been consumed.
Most reports are claiming that there's at least 1.5 million tones but this number is as controversial as any other.
This week, a post on NOAA's Marine Debris blog states the following:
"Here's the bottom line: There is no solid mass of debris from Japan heading to the United States."
In 2012, marine debris from the Japanese tsunami was a topic of intense scrutinization. Reports of a dock that had washed ashore in Oregon that containing 165 foreign species that had traveled from Oregon made national news. And while the tsunami debris highlighted to many that plastic waste in our oceans was a big issue that humanity faces, it convoluted that same issue as well.
What needs to be emphasized is not sensationalized reports of where the trash is or how big it might be. We need to emphasize the efforts we're making to rectify the situation before it becomes worse. On the West Coast alone, the cost of cleaning up marine debris comes to more than $13 per person per year, according to a recent EPA study.
Since plastic doesn't biodegrade, marine debris will only continue to become a problem.