Washington, California, Oregon Coasts to Get Another Wave of Tsunami Debris
(Newport, Oregon) – A group of scientists, mostly from the Oregon coast, say more tsunami debris from the Japanese earthquake of 2011 is likely to hit the shorelines of the western U.S. and Canada soon. This brings new concerns about invasive species after an alarming number of derelict vessels washed up last year, usually carrying something that posed a danger to local ecosystems.
The frequency of small boats and other debris declined sharply this past year with seasonal wind changes and shifts in the currents. Now, those winds and currents have returned to their winter-spring pattern and scientists are expecting more items to wash ashore – even though it is nearing four years since a massive earthquake and tsunami shook Japan.
Some the more dangerous are blue mussels, which had been found on almost every boat. Some 200 different species were discovered on these and other debris, many with the potential to be invasive in some way.
“The crustaceans and bivalves are of particular concern because they could introduce new diseases, and compete with, displace or otherwise affect our oyster or mussel populations,” Chapman said.
Signs of new debris have already begun. Last week, an object with numerous mussels on it washed up at Seal Rock on the central Oregon coast.
“We continue to find new organisms that we have never seen before,” Chapman said. “There isn’t as much diversity aboard the Japanese fishing vessels as there was on the dock, but each new species that we haven’t seen before is a cause for concern.
“No one can predict if these new species may gain a foothold in Northwest waters – and what impacts that may have,” he added.
Scientists are surprised by the tenacity of these sea creatures, which seem to survive for years in the rougher conditions of the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Among some of the species the Oregon State biologists have encountered over the past year are bat stars, which are sea stars that look like they have bat wings; striped knifejaw, fish that were found alive in at least one boat; and numerous small crustaceans.
Teams of scientists from around the North Pacific region have joined with Hatfield experts, and they say the rate of debris influx is starting to slow. But they believe the threat is still not over.
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